In 2001, we conservatively estimated that between 4000 to 8000 farmers resorted to setting snares and illegal hunting (poaching) to feed and support their families. Those poaching households with firearms earned 2 to 3 times the annual income of non-hunting families ($80 yearly) in the Luangwa Valley.
A food insecure family would set 10 to 15 snares 3 to 4 times a year and would kill on average 7 wild animals annually. Sometimes lions and leopards were inadvertently killed in this way. Poachers with firearms would kill about 6 animals a year, animals killed were typically large-bodied species like buffalo or kudu, and 12% of these poachers have reportedly killed elephants.
Other farmers resorted to charcoal-making to earn extra money. Charcoal production is driven by a high urban demand and is rapidly depleting forests and degrading watersheds in Luangwa Valley. Down-river flooding and silting and huge carbon losses result. Similar pressures are driving fishery stocks down and leaving soils bare and nutrient deprived.
Communities affected by these problems find it extremely difficult to organize and plan efforts to change their habits and leaders who would like to cannot influence change without a long-term solution that offers a better alternative. Donor-funded projects work on time-scales too short to make change lasting and government funding is too limited to make change possible as well.