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This was a project under Defra’s Small Environmental Projects Scheme, and was led by Iu.A. Arylov, with Imperial College as the UK partner.

Period: October 2005 – September 2006

Professor Iu.A. Arylov, Centre for the Study and Conservation of Wild Animals of Kalmykia – Project leader
Dr A.A. Lushchekina, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Moscow – Technical Consultant
Professor E.J. Milner-Gulland, Professor in Conservation Science, Imperial College, London

Project aim
To create a livestock bank linking improved livelihoods of the rural poor with cessation of saiga poaching around the Chernye Zemli Reserve.

· To convert our understanding of the development needs of local people into action, targetting the poorest members of communities near the CZBR for support.
· To link explicitly support for rural livelihoods with action to protect the critically endangered saiga antelope.
· To engage local people, particularly children, in activities promoting sustainable regeneration of the rural economy, and to promote pride in their natural environment.
· To create a partnership for action between local people, protected area managers, saiga conservationists, and local government.

Our previous research showed that a single dairy cow can transform the lives of the poorest families. We used the land and facilities available near the CWA’s Saiga Breeding Centre to establish a small herd of a premium local breed of pasture cattle (Kalmykian Red cattle). This herd formed the basis of a rotating cow fund, linking village cooperation in reducing poaching to concrete support for poor families. Target villages were those around the CZWR where poaching was occurring but villagers were keen to cease poaching and work with us instead. They were selected through discussion with village authorities, and on the basis of our previous research under the Darwin project. We worked with village committees, who developed transparent rules for allocating cows to families, based on need. Continued participation in the scheme was conditional on the village fulfilling its obligations not to tolerate poaching in its area, either by villagers or outsiders, but instead to report it to the authorities.

Households receiving a cow were also given support to ensure they had the facilities to keep it, and were provided with fodder and veterinary support for the duration of the project. The firstborn female calf from the cow was returned to the fund, for redistribution to the next family. CWA helped in marketing the dairy produce, including subsidising the provision of dairy products to local schools. This was linked with publicity about the scheme in the local media and through leaflets, talks and posters, particularly in the target villages and schools.

The long-term aim was to build an explicit link between development of the livestock sector and the activities of the CZBR and CWA, such that they are seen as integral parts of the rural economy of Kalmykia. The rotating cow scheme was planned to expand to include all villages in the area of the CZBR. It formed the core of the development of the CWA Saiga Breeding Centre as the main visitor attraction of Kalmykia (for locals as well as tourists/business visitors), that markets locally sustainably produced items as well as providing information and raising environmental awareness.

· Two poor families received cows, veterinary support, fodder & infrastructure.
· Two participating villages linked development activities to saiga antelope conservation, and ensured that poaching incidents were reported in their area, and that villagers did not poach.
· Local schoolchildren received fresh dairy produce and information about the importance of conserving the local environment and of ensuring that revival of the livestock sector is environmentally sustainable.
· The CWA’s Saiga Breeding Centre was promoted as a visitor attraction, environmental awareness centre and a hub for the sale of high quality local produce.
· Local publicity in newspapers and television highlighted the global importance of Kalmykia’s wildlife, particularly saigas, and the concept of supporting the livelihoods of the poorest people as a locally appropriate solution to poverty-induced poaching.
· National and international promotion of this proactive and participatory approach to sustainable management of Russia’s natural resources, and of the conservation needs of the saiga antelope.

For more information please visit the website for our collaborators in Russia.

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