COMACO Update, Dale Lewis’ Zambian Sustainable Conservation Project

COMACO: sustainable conservation - Luangwa - Zambia
COMACO: sustainable conservation - Luangwa - Zambia- Featured Image link credit -

COMACO’s Dale Lewis started the sustainable conservation project in the Luangwa, Zambia. Over the years the project managed laudable merits for converting poachers to protectors of wildlife. About 15 years back, the American who fell in love with Africa started up the COMACO project. Later, the It’s Wild food franchise came along. It works through the local community and partners. With the recent arrival of their latest newsletter, I decided to do an update on the project.

COMACO could be Africa’s leading model for sustainable conservation

According to the World Bank Vice President, Hafez, Ghanem, “COMACO is the model Africa has been waiting for.” To recap, in case you’re not familiar with COMACO, here’s some background. Initially, Dale Lewis identified that poaching arose out of poverty, so COMACO targeted that first. The belief that replacing poverty with income would influence poachers to put down their guns, worked.

In fact,  not only would the project take away the incentive to poach but turned poachers into wildlife protectors. Focussing on the Luangwa area, they set about convincing poaches of the idea. Actually, they used community advisers and managers and it certainly took off, as their website shows some laudable figures.

Successes for Dale Lewis’ conservation in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley

The website of COMACO brings updated figures and some of their successes include:

  • 186 thousand Luangwa farmers pledging to conserve their land.
  • A food security increase of 78 percent.
  • Annual income increased by 450 percent.
  • Maize yields increased by 2 to 3 percent.
  • 1,678 poachers were converted to the conservation of wildlife and the environment.
  • Conserved areas reach one million hectares.

Local people who previously mismanaged the land and clashed with wild animals changed their ways. They learn via radio, training, funding, and outreach programs to earn money and feed their families. Nearly two thousand of those farmers, who learn to farm in a sustainable way, previously made a living through poaching.

In fact, for them, the COMACO project pays them, and really, poaching is not a safe way to earn a living. Many of them preferred to put down the guns and earn through farming in a sustainable way. Actually, if you go to any supermarket in Zambia, it’s likely you’ll see It’s Wild products on the shelves. Consumers enjoy the products, and the animals stay alive.

Latest COMACO Newsletter updates on Zambia’s sustainable conservation project

The latest updates came out this month. Certainly, the sustainable conservation project still looks good. The May 2 newsletter highlighted the late William B Lloyd who supported the COMACO approach. “He left a significant endowment to support [their] work.” In fact, “he dedicated the Yummy Soy plant in Chipata in his name at a memorial service.”

Notably, the offshoot, the It’s Wild brand’s “Yummy Soy product was awarded the Best Product of the Year prize at the SADC 2019 Quality Awards.” Plus, COMACO delivered their first order of peanuts to “Solo Foods’ processing plant in South Africa.” It’s part “of a 100-ton order per month to this market.”

On the conservation front, the newsletter notes that the project entered “into a partnership with Kasanka Trust.” This will help to protect the “Kasanka National Park through increased linkages with livelihood benefits.” Plus, it’s all “tied to conservation commitments by the local communities.”

What are your thoughts on the sustainable conservation approach by Dale Lewis with his COMACO project? Do you think this is the best way forward to stop poaching? Certainly, the latest updates seem encouraging.

Remember to check back often with my articles on sustainable conservation and anti-poaching in Africa.