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Delineating the drivers of waning wildlife habitat: the predominance of cotton farming on the fringe of protected areas in the Mid-Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe

Baudron F., Corbeels M., Andersson J.A., Sibanda M., Giller K.E.. 2011. Biological Conservation, 144 (5) : p. 1481-1493.

Zimbabwe's Mid-Zambezi Valley is of global importance for the emblematic mega-fauna of Africa. Over the past 30 years rapid land use change in this area has substantially reduced wildlife habitat. Tsetse control operations are often blamed for this. In this study, we quantify this change for the Dande Communal Area, Mbire District, of the Mid-Zambezi Valley and analyse the contribution of three major potential drivers: (1) increase in human population; (2) increase in cattle population (and the expansion of associated plough-based agriculture), and; (3) expansion of cotton farming. Although direct effects of land use change on wildlife densities could not be proven, our study suggests that the consequences for elephant and buffalo numbers are negative. All three of the above drivers have contributed to the observed land use change. However, we found farmland to have expanded faster than the human population, and to have followed a similar rate of expansion in cattle sparse, tsetse infested areas as in tsetse free areas where cattle-drawn plough agriculture dominates. This implies the existence of a paramount driver, which we demonstrate to be cotton farming. Contrary to common belief, we argue that tsetse control was not the major trigger behind the dramatic land use change observed, but merely alleviated a constraint to cattle accumulation. We argue that without the presence of a cash crop (cotton), land use change would have been neither as extensive nor as rapid as has been observed. Therefore, conservation agencies should be as concerned by the way people farm as they are by population increase. Conserving biodiversity without jeopardising agricultural production will require the development of innovative technological and institutional options in association with policy and market interventions. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : utilisation des terres; faune et flore sauvages; biodiversité; glossina; gossypium; zimbabwe; front pionnier

Thématique : Conservation de la nature et ressources foncières; Agriculture - Considérations générales

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