Today, nearly half the population of sub-Saharan Africa still live on less than $1.90 a day, causing widespread food insecurity and hunger. Poverty rates in sub-Saharan countries in Africa have barely fallen in the last 30 years, despite massive flows in both ‘development aid’ and resource extraction investment money (mining, oil, gas).
This persistent absolute poverty in turn leads to:
- Poaching and illegal harvesting of wildlife from National Parks and private protected areas.
- Wildlife trafficking syndicates being able to make inroads in to impoverished communities to enlist people to poach high value wildlife such as rhinos, elephants and pangolins
The main issue is often not the lack of money, but the unequal distribution of money. This has not been corrected by the prevalent development aid paradigm, as a large percentage of aid money is typically lost to corruption, spent in the donor country or on overheads.
A different aid paradigm is now under consideration using the Basic Income model – transferring cash directly to those in need and giving them control over the money. This massively reduces overhead expenses and prevents corruption.
Whilst most Basic Income trials focus on health and education outcomes, we want to demonstrate the increasing food security will directly lead to a reduction in poaching and illegal harvesting and hence protect precious wildlife. There was evidence that this could be the case in a 2009 Namibian basic income trial. While the trial was not directly linked to conservation, they did see a great reduction in illegal hunting.
The Nature Needs More team is currently investigating the feasibility of running a 2-year Basic Income trial in Zimbabwe, starting in 2018. We have been invited to present our concept at the 2017 Basic Income Congress in Lisbon and we will be travelling Zimbabwe in November 2017 to discuss the design and location for such a trial with a number of stakeholders.
We are aiming to follow the proven GiveDirectly model of enrollment and distributing cash via mobile payments. We will partner with a research institution to collect the baseline data and for the evaluation of the trial. We will further partner with an experienced NGO which can do the on-the-ground monitoring work.
It is certainly exciting to see questions such as these promoting the basic income model in Switzerland:
“What would you do if your income was taken care of?
For the Nature Needs More team it would be even more interesting to test this question in a country such as Zimbabwe, which has the highest unemployment rate in the world, at over 90%. In addition, Zimbabwe has high rates of wildlife poaching, from elephants and rhinos to pangolins for illegal trafficking and many species of antelope for local wild meat consumption.
We also fully agree with the statement:
The Basic Income is Not Left or Right.
It is Forward.
If the basic income model can be used to overcome food insecurity and family wellbeing issues in highly stressed populations living close to conservation areas, can this lead to securing vulnerable populations of, animals such as rhinos, elephant and pangolins?
These are the questions Nature Needs More is exploring with our proposed Basic Income trial.