The local population surrounding Zakouma National Park is very low density, but heavily dependent on natural resources in the park’s periphery zone. Working closely with the communities living in the villages surrounding Zakouma, along with the thousands of nomads that move into the region each year, is therefore of paramount importance, and a number of development programmes have been implemented to improve their quality of life.
The education in Chad is challenging due to the nation’s dispersed population. This is further exacerbated by parents’ reluctance to send children to school, largely because they cannot afford the enrollment fees, but also because they need their children to assist with the never-ending work involved in supporting their subsistence-based lifestyle.
Zakouma has focused on improving the quality of education by providing a better school environment, training teachers, and providing better teaching materials. A number of new schools, called Elephant Schools, have been built, in areas within the elephant migration zone, and an environmental education programme has been launched. This includes providing local communities with the opportunity to experience the park first-hand, with many of the children seeing wildlife for the first time.
In order to continue to build a local constituency for the long-term support of Zakouma, six new ‘secko’ schools were also constructed, and the park employed a full-time teacher for each one.
In 2016, more than 1,200 children were educated this year and over 5,000 school children and local villagers visited the park as part of our outreach to the community
Zakouma is one of the biggest employers in the regions of Salamat and Guera and provides many opportunities for local income generation, particularly through the purchase of supplies for park management and the tourist camps, along with casual work in the park.
The positive relationship between the park and local communities is largely due to the increased security provided by the extensive law enforcement patrols in their areas. The park is located nearby the Sudan border and communities based in these areas suffer from the presence of criminal groups who steal from them, and in some cases even kill community members
By extending the park’s communication network to include radios in strategic villages, the flow of information has been improved, so that communities can tip off park authorities if they encounter any suspicious activity or potential threats, both to people and wildlife. This enables management to react quickly before there is any loss of life.
It is the firm belief of park management that the decline in elephant poaching is not only due to the improved anti-poaching activities, now year-round, but is also due to the largely positive relationship the park now has with its neighbours – they act as the eyes and ears around the entire park and provide information on suspicious people or illegal activities in the area.
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