Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 12, March 2010
Kavango-Zambezi to be the world's biggest transfrontier park
by Kizito Sikuka

A new conservation area spanning five countries in southern Africa will be the world’s largest transfrontier park.

Situated in the Okavango and Zambezi River basins where the borders of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe converge, the Kavango-Zambezi Trans Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) covers an area of about 287, 000 square kilometres.

When established it will include 36 national parks, game reserves, community conservancies and game management areas.

The conservation area also boasts numerous attractions such as the Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe, San Rock paintings in Botswana and the absorbing wildlife population in the region.

This high concentration of attractions is expected to create an entirely new assortment of tourism opportunities in southern Africa but also present a new dawn for socio-economic development in the SADC region, resulting in deeper integration among Member States.

The signing by Zimbabwe of the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) signals another major step towards the creation of the KAZA TFCA.

A recent study by the Peace Parks Foundation and the Southern African Development Bank predicts that the conservation area could attract as many as eight million tourists to the region annually as well as creating employment for thousands of people.

To ensure the project becomes a reality in the near future, the five countries have been actively engaged in consultations to establish a sound foundation for the KAZA TFCA.

The first major step was initiated in December 2006 when Ministers responsible for Tourism and Natural Resources gathered in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to sign a groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding to develop the conservation area.

Each participating country was then expected to develop its own components of the IDP to ensure the smooth implementation of the project.

The IDP serves as a summary of the needs and expectations of stakeholders in each country.

It also forms the basis of the support that lead agencies such as parks and wildlife management authorities would provide towards achieving the objectives of the TFCA.

As a broad and strategic guideline document, the IDP could be used as a reference for detailed conservation planning initiatives for the national parks, safari areas, forestry areas, and communal areas.

Zambia was the first country to develop its component of the IDP in June 2008. Zimbabwe completed its IDP in February 2010, making it the second participating country to do so.

The Zimbabwean Environment and Natural Resources Minister, Francis Nhema, said the remaining countries are expected to complete their IDP soon, and Angola has made significant progress in this regard. .

The Botswana and Namibia IDPs would follow, paving the way for an integrated development plan for the whole area in advance of the signing of an international treaty by the five presidents and eventually the official opening of the park.

Minister Nhema said that the five presidents are expected to put their signatures to the treaty in a few months time to formally establish the KAZA TFCA.

He said the establishment of the transfrontier conservation areas should ensure that tourism opportunities in the region complement each other, adding that when such attractions are marketed as a joint regional eco-tourism destination, they make a far more attractive option to prospective tourists looking for a range of opportunities and experiences.

The establishment of the KAZA TFCA is expected to be a new benchmark for southern Africa to strengthen regional projects and promote more transfrontier parks in the region.

Such parks already established include the Greater Limpopo Trans Frontier Conservation Area which straddles Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, Maiombe Forest TFCA that involves Angola, Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Liuwa Plain/Mussuma, which includes Angola and Zambia.

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SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985

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