Southern African News Features                                           SANF 11 No 23, September 2011
SADC to establish world’s largest transfrontier park
 

The establishment of the world’s largest transfrontier park moved another step closer to becoming a reality when five southern African countries signed a treaty to formally launch the park.

Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe signed the treaty to establish the Kavango-Zambezi Trans Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) at the recent SADC Summit held in Luanda, Angola.

Situated in the Okavango and Zambezi River basins where the borders of the five countries converge, the KAZA TFCA covers an area of about 444, 000 square kilometres.

It would include 36 national parks, game reserves, community conservancies and game management areas.

The conservation area boasts of numerous tourist 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, presenting new opportunities for socio-economic development in the SADC region, resulting in deeper integration among member states.

It would also allow the region to jointly market their attractions, presenting prospective tourists with a wide range of opportunities and experiences.

A recent study by the Peace Parks Foundation and the Development Bank of Southern Africa 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.

By signing the treaty, the five SADC countries have demonstrated their commitment to sustainably manage their resources and encourage socio-economic development in the region.

As a result of this firm commitment shown by the five countries, a KAZA TFCA Secretariat has been established to ensure that this ambitious plan is fully implemented.

The offices for the KAZA TFCA Secretariat are located in Kasane, Botswana and were officially launched in August at a ceremony attended by the SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomão and tourism ministers from the five countries.

Botswana’s Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila said the transfrontier park “will promote investment and infrastructure development to support both conservation and tourism in the region.”

The establishment of the KAZA TFCA is founded on the SADC ideals articulated in the Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement of 1999, which commits member states to “promote the conservation of shared wildlife resources through the establishment of transfrontier conservation areas.”

The participating SADC member states made the first major step towards this goal 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.

Since then, the countries have been actively engaged in consultations to establish a sound foundation for the park, with each participating country developing its own components of the Integrated Development Plan (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 and 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.

Zambia was the first country to develop its component of the IDP in 2008, followed by Zimbabwe in 2010. Angola, Botswana and Namibia completed their IDPs early this year, paving the way for the signing of the treaty by the presidents of the five countries.

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.

The transfrontier conservation areas concept is based on the principle that the flow of nature, including rivers, wind, vegetation and animals, is not bound by political boundaries.

Neighbouring countries can derive greater financial benefit from the natural resources that they share, in a process that also promotes peace and stability.

Existing TFCAs in the SADC region include the Greater Limpopo TFCA which straddles Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe; and the Lubombo TFCA shared by Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland.


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