Awaretrust: the report
The In2Afrika Foundation works with social development projects, spread across our route through the African continent. The social aspect stands for us stands for 'people-oriented, focused on communities." Our ninth project might be slightly out of tune from that perspective. AWARE focuses wildlife, the protection and conservation of wildlife and their habitat. It's work consists largely in restoring what the people and their community has damaged, one could argue. But when we look at the organization a litlle closer, it has much more in common with social development than appears at first sight. The root causes of the work AWARE is being forced to do also stems from the problems of the people in the community. AWARE shows us how close animal welfare and social development can get on the African continent.
AWARE trust arose in 2004, when founders and veterinarians Lisa and Keith were asked to set up an important disease-surveillance project. Although the results of this study could provide important information for the development of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP, which crosses the borders of Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique), it took almost a year to get the budget for the research. Seeing how difficult the funding for such a project was, soon came the desire to set up a local organization, funded by donors, which would have the resources and funds to carry out this kind of important work. With this in mind, the Animal and Wildlife Area Research Trust was born.
Founders of AWARE trust are Dr. Keith Dutlow and Dr. Lisa Marabini, two veterinarians, born in Zimbabwe. Together they run the business MEDIVET, the only Zimbabwean wholesaler licensed to import dangerous drugs used in operations of animals. The income they generate with this business gives them the opportunity to work on a voluntary basis for AWARE. Along with other vets (Dr. Erick Mutizhe, Dr. Andy Garura and Dr. Vinay Ramlaul) who are voluntarily committed to various projects of the organization, they form the skilled heart of AWARE. As the cornerstone of the organization we find, Tracey Hugill, along with her husband Chris, who does the public relations / fundraising on her behalf. We talk to Tracey and Chris on a sunny Tuesdamorning in Harare.
AWARE trust at the moment is, as they call it themselves, especially an 'emergency-based'- organization. It has no office or practice, everyone works from home. It mainly goed into actionmode when prompted, when there is an emergency. When the resources for the operation are there, the team rushes to intervene. AWARE is doing their job when wild animals are in a danger, often at the hands of men. There's a zebra caught in a trap, there is a rhino attacked by poachers or a baby elephant spotted without a mother.
Alongside, AWARE committed to more sustainable projects. These projects always focus on the areas where the animal- and human world meet. The organization carries out major campaigns in the area of sterilization and vaccination of domestic animals in rural areas. These animals have often been a source of infectious diseases, which they transfer to the wildlife. With a makeshift mobile clinic AWARE moves into the countryside, and treats the animals there. This provides a boost for the local population, but it also protects the nearby wildlife from contamination by these animals. Finally, AWARE engages in the field of education. Both by instilling values about wildlife and their habitat at grassroots level for schoolchildren. Secondly by educating and teaching the older generation: both the rural population is taught, as well as rangers are retrained. In short, it's all about AWAREness.
As mentioned earlier, AWARE trust at first sight is not so much fitting the philosophy of In2Afrika, which focuses on social development of people and communities. But a closer look tells us there are certainly a lot of overlaps between social development and welfare. This has to do with the understanding that the threat of wild animals and their habitat results largely from a single source: humans
In the past 27 years, the population of the African continent doubled. This not only makes that there is less and less space for wildlife, but also that more people should provide for their own needs. Different circumstances make sure that not everyone in Zimbabwe succeeds at this very easily. And a dog backed up in a corner is going to bite. The African man who cannot feed his family goes poaching. The African farmer whose land is trampled by elephants sets traps to prevent this. With this understanding, it is not just enough to act when the suffering has already been done, but we should be working on the underlying causes that make people come into conflict with the animals. "What AWARE does at this time is treating the symptoms. That is absolutely necessery work. But what really is the solution, is to teach the people. If you solve the lack in education, that's when you really solve the problem." says Tracey. AWARE uses this philosofie where possible.
AWARE, for example, believes in the fact that improving the health and welfare of domestic animals which belong to the rural population will amount to the wellbeing of their owners. In this way it will have a domino-effect on wildlife. With a healthy herd, local populations will be much less in need for the poaching of wild animals. Teaching the younger generation of Zimbabweans over the fact that nature is their legacy, and that they should take care of it is very important. And also educating veterinarians and rangers is essential.
At present, AWAR is mainly an organization that works for emergencies. This makes it terribly useful. But the necessity of this work has deeper causes, AWARE also realizes. And therefore they are working on sustainable projects, with the focus on education and collaboration with the rural population. Here are namely the solutions for the long term! Not stopping the poachers, but providing alternative income for these people is the ultimate solution. Not saving an elephant attacked, but teaching new generations will ensure change in the long term. AWARE however sometimes simply lacks the means to act. The entire organization and especially Tracey puts everything she has into this. Because for the future there are indeed plenty of dreams.