JOHN DELANEY: (1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)

STEPHEN SAUTNER: (1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org)

Zambia’s COMACO Turns to Tablet Technology To Monitor Sustainable Harvests & Wildlife Protection

Luangwa Valley, Zambia (December 30, 2015)—Members of the sustainable farming cooperative located in the Luangwa Valley of Zambia are going hi-tech in the ongoing work to combine food security with wildlife conservation, according to WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society). 

Participants in COMACO (Community Markets for Conservation) are now monitoring agricultural practices and compliance with Android Nexus 7 tablets, donated through WCS to enable program managers to gather data from thousands of member farmers more efficiently.

The Luangwa Valley is home to elephants, zebras, wild dogs, and many other charismatic species as well as thousands of people, many of whom have joined COMACO, a program established in 2003 to promote agricultural practices designed to increase crop production while reducing deforestation and unsustainable hunting.

“Doing things better, faster, and cheaper is one of the core values of COMACO,” said COMACO Monitoring and Evaluation Manager Gertrude Nyrenda. “The success of the program brings new challenges, one of which is the growing number of participating farmers. The new technology is helping us gather information on farming practices on a large scale more rapidly while providing real-time statistics.”

Specifically, the internet-based monitoring system will help COMACO managers collect data on farming compliance, post-harvest crop totals, and eventually wildlife sightings around villages; many of the participating communities are located in close proximity to two of Zambia’s national parks.

The COMACO network has succeeded in training more than 107,000 farmers in sustainable farming methods since the program’s founding. COMACO members now practice beekeeping, organic farming, handicrafts, and other environmentally friendly trades. The program also provides farmers with access to regional and international markets for their produce and products. At the same time, many former hunters have turned over firearms and snares in exchange for membership in the program.

“COMACO continues to provide the region with a practical model for sustainable development, one that promotes sound agricultural practices and natural resource protection,” said Dale Lewis, founder of COMACO. “A technology upgrade in monitoring will enable COMACO managers to monitor practices more efficiently and to identify areas for improvement.”

WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)

MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.