At one time, Edson Zimba only took from his native land of Zambia. Now he gives back.

For twenty years he combed the bush of Zambia’s Luangwa National Park, a remote reserve known to tourists as a place to experience wildlife undisturbed. He hunted buffalo, elephant and hedgehog.

Zimba was a poacher.

But he grew weary of hunting the increasingly barren brush. So when he was asked by a non-profit environmental group to turn over his gun in favor of farming, he quickly accepted their offer.

Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) is in the business of providing alternative life choices for would-be poachers, teaching them beekeeping, vegetable gardening and carpentry.elephant whisperer herd returns

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The group has taught Zimba sustainable farming techniques so that he now yields enough to feed his family.

And what’s left, he sells to COMACO for its food processing facility, which manufactures It’s Wild food products, sold in markets across Zambia.

In recent years, eighty percent of farmers in Zambia couldn’t grow enough food to make ends meet. The fallback, according to COMACO’s founder, Dale Lewis, was poaching.humpback whale_noaa

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“The (agricultural) technology is there,” says Lewis, “but what’s been lacking is an organization that can change a way of life… and be a solution for conservation.”

One reformed poacher says, before, he was a destroyer. Now, the farmer calls himself a human being.

Zimba tells Al Jazeera America, that COMACO “upgraded our minds.”  He says, “I’m living much better than in the past.”

(READ the full story from Al Jazeera America)

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