Dale Lewis

Ashoka Fellow

Citation

This profile was prepared when Dale Lewis was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
Dale believes food shortages are the driving force behind poaching and therefore the top hindrance to successful conservation programs. Changing this situation demands more than stronger punishment for destroying the environment, it requires new social, economic, and environmental architecture, with a redefining of roles for communities living in and around wildlife conservation areas. Dale has introduced sustainable farming practices that promote the co-existence of humans and wildlife, while increasing food stocks all year round for families that face food shortages. Connected to this is the first community-based decentralized food processing infrastructure in Zambia which guarantees new incomes for households.

Dale has successfully created new roles for former poachers, by using his farming and economic program to mobilize them as the drivers of this new social and economic architecture. They have become ambassadors of the market-based conservation idea to others in the valley, teaching them about responsible farming and becoming enforcers of new rules that require farmers benefiting from Dale’s program to meet environmental protection standards to protect the environment. For example, a group of top performing farmers—many being former poachers—are tasked with monitoring the compliance of farmers to use responsible farming practices that protect water catchment areas and wildlife.Compliance with the new environmental standards is rewarded with premium prices for their farm produce.

Sustaining the interest of the communities requires the creation of a sustainable economic model that is competitive and profitable at the local and international level. Dale has successfully created such a system with “It’s Wild”—the top selling brand among rice, soy meal, and honey sectors in the Zambian market. His brands have attracted interest from ShopRite and Spar, leading supermarket chains across southern Africa, compelled the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to adopt market-based conservation, and attracted global commercial brands such as Walmart and the Government of Zambia to work with him to spread his work across Zambia and southern Africa.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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