Lucia Kandambo is the Vice Chairperson of George Mukoya Conservancy in Kavango, and was one of the first people to work on the awareness campaign to start the conservancy in 2002. She lives in Dosa village, at the end of a long, sandy track which even 4x4s struggle through, and life in the village has always been hard. Back in those days there was no benefit from wildlife, she says, and she has a tale to illustrate the point.
One afternoon she was weeding the mahangu field when she spotted what looked like a black bull coming towards her. It turned out to be a buffalo, and a very aggressive one. Lucia ran, and the buffalo gave chase. As it drew close, Lucia made a dive into the ground and the buffalo dived after her, spearing its horns into the ground, which gave Lucia time to scramble away in the confusion.
This was before the conservancy was established in 2005. A local counsellor had been out hunting – poaching – and had shot and wounded the buffalo, which was why it was aggressive. After it had attacked Lucia, it attacked and killed a man who had tried to track it down with a bow and arrow. The buffalo was finally shot by the MET and the meat shared by the villagers. “Very nice,” laughs Lucia.
Dosa village is no stranger to human-wildlife conflict. Crops are often damaged as elephants trample through the area, passing in and out of Khaudum National Park. The conservancy quota sometimes allows a trophy hunt for an elephant, and the money from the hunt goes into the human-wildlife compensation account, and the meat is distributed.
Lucia and other villagers in Dosa are beginning to see the benefits of the conservancy. She started as the treasurer, and sees the improvements that salary payments, human-wildlife conflict compensation and meat distribution have made, but the real problem in the area is income generation. What George Mukoya really needs is income from tourism, which should begin soon with a new lodge being constructed in Khaudum as a joint venture with the conservancy.