Botswana’s Ministry of Tourism on Friday held the KavangoÔÇôZambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) donor conference in which Ministers responsible for portfolios of environment, wildlife, tourism and natural resources in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, presented their proposals to the donor committee.
Botswana’s Minister of Tourism, Kitso Mokaila, who officiated at the event, said the aim of the conference was to discuss options and modalities of how donors can support these five countries in assisting the rural communities residing in the vicinity of the Okavango and Upper Zambezi river basin.
“We would like to help people living in these areas to benefit from the natural resources in their midst,” said Mokaila. “I’m happy to let you know that there now exists a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by Ministers from these five countries.”
Mokaila said that the MoU set out the guidelines for collaboration towards establishing and developing a Transfrontier Conservation Area that straddles the international boundaries of the five countries. He explained that the TFCA was a new conservation paradigm that recognized the importance of collaboration in managing shared natural resources between countries, the multiple-tenure and land-use systems, and the integration of natural resources into rural economies.
“The KAZA TFCA alone is a home for more that 2.5 million people most of whom are dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods,” he pointed out. Some of the livelihoods, he said, include pastoralism, hunting, fishing, harvesting of reeds and sedges, growing of crops and employment as skilled and unskilled labour, notably in different sectors of a vibrant tourism industry.
He said that with the background of these people, it is imperative that any programme to promote the conservation of natural resources must on the other hand sustain and have a positive impact on the standard of living of these rural communities.
Mokaila said the proposed KAZA TFAC is endowed with an abundance of biological diversity of at least 3 000 plant species and over 600 species of birds.
“This area is host to the largest elephant population of African elephants and is a home to popular scenic tourism destinations, such as the Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls,” added the Minister.
The area includes 36 formally proclaimed national parks, game reserves, forest reserves and game/wildlife management areas. Mokaila said that this area has intervening conservation and tourism concessions set aside for the consumptive and non-consumptive uses of natural resources.
Furthermore, the Minister said the current tourism infrastructures and the untapped potential to develop more tourism facilities offer a real window of opportunity for transforming this area into a world class tourism destination in Africa.
“It is in recognition of this potential that the five KAZA TFAC partners believe they can derive equitable retains and socio-economic benefits,” he said, adding that this would be made possible only if they harmonized their conservation policies and practices and use their shared natural resources prudently.
Mokaila told the delegates that the development of the KAZA TFCA would embody the needs of rural people through contributing to poverty reduction, gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal mortality as well as combating malaria and other water related diseases. The development of this area also ensures environmental sustainability and the forging of global partnerships for development, he said.
“I urge all to consider these significant contributions to both conservation and human development albeit the shortfalls reflected in the poverty head-count ratios within the KAZA TFCA which are still too high.”
Expressing gratitude to the donors who accepted to assist KAZA TFCA, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Environment and Tourism, Francis Nhema, said that they were happy as they would be able to achieve what they set out to achieve.
“We are looking at the progress of our communities and creation of employment. We want to build their capacity and make these communities part and parcel of this project,” he said. Communities have not been the owners in their own areas where they are residing, said Nhema, hence the need to educate and train them to encourage partnerships.
“All of us together with the donors are working together in the name of conservation and beneficiation of our communities,” he said.