Afghanistan’s endangered wildlife often share the same habitats and use the same resources as human communities in remote regions of the country. Community members are highly dependent on resource-based livelihoods, particularly agriculture. In order to increase well-being of community members, reduce pressure on local resources and ensure a sustainable future for wildlife, WCS has worked with communities to increase incomes and diversify livelihoods.
WCS has worked with community partners to expand benefits from tourism:
- Improving Attractions in Band-e-Amir National Park: In 2017, a tourism survey revealed that over 189,000 people now visit the park, the vast majority of whom are Afghan citizens. WCS and partners have ensured that local communities benefit from this influx of tourism by implementing a tourism facility development plan, constructing a tourist information centre, a new park entrance facility, new ranger complex, and improved campsites, picnic areas, trails and latrines. WCS has also developed a Facilities Zone Development Plan for the national park’s visitor area, approved by the government, which has been partially implemented. Proposed activities include construction of a new entrance road, flood water drainage, tourist pathways, ecological restoration zone, tree planting, and renovation of an important shrine. In 2017 the new entrance gate was established and 100,000 poplar and willow trees were planted.
- Increased visitation to parks:
- Band-E-Amir: Increased the profile of Band-e-Amir National Park through local and international media outlets, resulting in an exponential rise in tourist numbers. This has increased the opportunities for local communities to benefit from park tourism by providing accommodation, food, rental of boats on the lake, selling handicraft and local food products, and repairing and washing motor vehicles.
- Wakhan: The Wakhan was named by National Geographic Adventure Magazine in 2008 as one of the “Best New Trips in the World.” Increased publicity of the park has boosted international tourist numbers, with 100-250 people now visiting annually. Through establishing a tourism center in Ishkashim, providing ecotourism trainings for Wakhan residents, improving facilities and working with the local government to promote the quality of the park’s offerings, WCS is helping to turn the national park back into an attractive ecotourism destination.
- Increased tourism skills and business opportunities:
- Band-e-Amir: WCS established five shops for the exclusive use of women of Band-e-Amir villages to sell handicrafts and local food. It also initiated a horse safari operation to discover the area from horseback and developed a hygiene and sanitation training program that was delivered to 3,743 Afghans (1,978 male and 1,765 female) in the communities surrounding Band-e-Amir National Park.
- Wakhan: WCS provided eco-tourism training for 24 individuals helping to place some with international tour operators as paid interns. In addition, a significant step forward has been the development of English-speaking skills by budding Afghan tourist guides and expedition cooks as part of a coordinated effort to increase community income from tourism. WCS organized a discovery tour to Nepal for a selection of local tourist operators, community members and government officials in 2014. WCS also hired over 50 community members to improve and repair tourist trails around Mount Noshaq, Little Pamir, and Vozut, thereby increasing the region’s attractiveness for trekking.
When WCS started working in the Wakhan in 2006, livestock veterinary care was almost non-existent outside the adjacent district of Ishkeshim. A lack of veterinary care affects farmers’ incomes and has the potential for disease spillover from domestic livestock to wildlife. WCS has made substantial progress to make veterinary care more accessible, thus reducing animal disease while creating employment opportunities for Wakhi community members. Additionally, WCS has worked with farmers to understand and prevent livestock losses from depredation. Specific results include:
- Enabled vaccination of large numbers of livestock: WCS employed, trained and equipped the only team in Afghanistan with expertise in wildlife disease, consisting of two veterinarians and two Wakhan-based paravets. This team has vaccinated nearly 30,000 cattle and domestic yaks against Foot and Mouth Disease in the upper Wakhan between 2009 and 2014, which is more than 65% of these populations every year. In 2017 the team also vaccinated more than 8,000 sheep and goats against Peste des Petit Ruminants (PPR). Thanks to these efforts the livestock population of Wakhan is now included in the national vaccination campaigns organized and funded by the government, including against PPR and brucellosis.
- Developed the first comprehensive livestock disease screening project in Afghanistan: With the help of the Central Veterinary Diagnostic and Research Laboratory in Kabul and foreign reference laboratories, WCS has implemented the first large scale comprehensive disease screening of livestock in Afghanistan using modern laboratory diagnostic tests. The statuses and risks to wildlife of Foot and Mouth disease, brucellosis, PPR, toxoplasmosis, Q fever, chlamydiophilosis, contagious caprine pleuropneumonia, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, bovine tuberculosis, blue tongue disease, Border disease and glanders have been documented in Wakhan National Park.
- Protected livestock from predation: Between 2010 and 2017 WCS assisted Wakhan communities to build 34 communal predator-proof corrals and improve 820 household corrals to protect their livestock and minimize human-wildlife conflict. More than 500 Wakhi families (around 4,000 individuals) benefit from this work
- Reduced fuelwood use: WCS distributed more than 500 fuel-efficient stoves to households in Band-e-Amir, provided 365 solar cookers to families in 2016 and built 100 attached solar greenhouses in 2017. Some families reported that these tools had decreased their shrub-fuel consumption substantially.
- Training women in new stove technology: WCS facilitated the training of almost 400 women in new stove technology in Bamyan and Wakhan. These women have visited their local communities, taught other women the many benefits of using environmentally-friendly stoves (which range from decreasing time away from the home collecting fuel, to improving health for families in their homes from lowered levels of smoke and particulates). Craftsmen have been trained in Wakhan to produce the stoves locally, creating additional economic benefit to communities.
- Expand access to clean energy: Provided materials for construction of a micro-hydro system for Qala-e Panja, Sarkhand and Pikut villages in Wakhan, bringing electricity to many homes for the very first time.