Sydney Kawadza Senior Features Writer —
As delegates to the State of Kavango Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area Symposium in Victoria Falls wrapped up the conference it was not hard to pick the anecdotes shared among the wildlife conservation gurus.
The anecdotes were both classical and, somehow, saddening. Most of these stories involved discussions on human-wildlife conflict in the KAZA region.
Five countries — Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Angola — signed the KAZA TFCA Treaty to conserve bio-diversity and market it using nature-based tourism as the engine for rural economic growth and development.
The commendable project has had its successes and challenges but the stories of human beings and animals facing off for food and scarce resources has been of major concern.
Imagine warthogs rushing towards residential areas when women start scouring their pots in Chinotimba Township in Victoria Falls. The warthogs, wildlife and tourist attractions to some, is a delicacy to others.
The animals have become prey to crafty residents turned poachers who feed the warthogs with traditional beer to become easy prey when they are tipsy. “That could be far-fetched but can you imagine that some people have stripped game parks of their fences to tie tomatoes in their gardens.
“They are suffering now when elephants destroy the same crops. Other wild animals also attack their livestock just because people have removed the fences around conservancies,” said conservation expert based in Zambia.
These tales could have been hilarious and unbelievable but the human-wildlife conflict has had fatal consequences.
In Zimbabwe, according to Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah-Kashiri, 19 people have lost their lives in human-wildlife conflicts since January this year.
Noting the hardships affecting communities living next to wildlife, Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said a further 13 people had been injured in these incidents.
“In many areas within Southern Africa, and in Zimbabwe in particular, wildlife kills human beings and livestock every year leading to serious conflicts with local communities,” she said.
Farmers have also lost 18 cattle, 11 donkeys and 105 goats to predators.
This, Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said, called for wildlife conservation practitioners to craft solutions to these challenges.
She said these solutions could be converted into opportunities to create assets and capital for business while facilitating benefit-sharing from wildlife conservation programmes.
“The role of rural communities in the KAZA TFCA programme is a key factor in the management of natural resources, especially considering the vast base of natural assets and rich cultural resources that local communities preside over and present in their areas.
“Our wildlife heritage must always play a fundamental role in overall development of our communities and poverty alleviation.
“The survival of our wildlife resources will obviously depend on their relationship with the people and our desire is to see wildlife conservation paying for itself is a sustainable manner.”
Speaking on behalf of traditional leaders, Chief Shana, Mr Jonah Neluswi said people only killed wild animals through ignorance.
“For people to see an animal and kill it for food would be from not knowing how to protect it and how to benefit from it.
“That’s what is lacking within the communities.”
Chief Shana, however, said communities have seen hunters from outside killing the animals while they do not draw any benefits from conservation programmes.
“They see how other people come and hunt the animals and so they also want to do the same but that is not the way it should be.
“We always encourage our people to know is that even our forefathers looked after the wild animals and they would only kill them if there was a genuine reason for that,” he said.
Chief Shana called on KAZA authorities to educate the communities on how to benefit from the natural resources.
“We should be taught how we can form Trusts so that we can benefit from the animals that are in our areas,” he said.
“If we have anything we want to build like clinics, schools, roads, we can develop ourselves from the resources.”
Chief Shana, however, noted efforts being made to conserve tree and animal species in Zimbabwe.
“In this part we conserve trees and animals because we appreciate the fact that it’s our heritage and wealth.
“Wildlife is part of us and without our animals and trees Hwange district would never have been popular. Even Victoria Falls itself, we conserve the river! It’s part of us!”
KAZA TFCA executive director Dr Morris Mutsambiwa however focused on the positive aspects of the initiative.
“In the past 10 years, KAZA has made a few strides, definitely, in 2006 when the MoU was singed here in Victoria Falls we were at a different stage
“Now we can record the successes that we have made and also the challenges that that we are addressing,” he said.
Dr Mutsambiwa said the fact that KAZA had a working structure working on its development.
“The structure comprises the ministries responsible for the environment, the permanent secretaries, senior Government officials, the joint management committee and the secretaries
“The joint management committee supervises the secretariat and I can say that this structure is working to address specific technical issues such as conservation, security, tourism development,” he said.
KAZA TFCA is now seized with a programme on addressing the issues to do with community participation in wildlife conservation.
Dr Mutsambiwa said several documents have also been prepared to assist in the development of KAZA.
“For example, one of the major activities will be the stakeholder engagement so that they are with us from the beginning.
“We have a document that was produced in 2011 which is a stakeholders’ business strategy.
“We have an integrated development plan for each country which have now been put as the master document integrated development plan.”
Dr Mutsambiwa said the master document was the framework for the KAZA development into the future for the next five years from 2015 – 2019.
“That is the plan under implementation and it is the framework for development into the next five years,” he said.
In terms of assisting Government agencies responsible for conservation, Dr Mutsambiwa said, KAZA had assisted member countries in infrastructure development programmes.
“We have to put up infrastructure, for example, the Sioma Ngwezi National Park in Zambia, the park was established a long time ago, 50 years ago.
“However, the park did not have a headquarters to operate from but we have established one for them to operate from — that is, offices, staff houses, workshops — and everything to make itself contained establishment,” he said.
Dr Mutsambiwa said in addition to infrastructure development there has been procurement of equipment, vehicles and boats to make it easier for staff to be deployed during law enforcement activities. He, however, bemoaned the co-ordination challenges between member countries.
“The difficulties are bringing all the partners and/or ministers together and we managed to bring three ministers to Zimbabwe but we would have loved to have all of them deliberating with stakeholders,” he said.
He said the KAZA TFCA was working with one funding partner and this affected the implementation of programmes.
“We are looking implementing the third phase of our programmes which would help us implement the integrated development strategy on three sites.
“He had, however, identified six sites for the programme but due to lack of funding we will be working on three wildlife dispersal areas,” he said.
KAZA was now working on sourcing funding or the other three sites.
Dr Mutsambiwa said there was also need to expedite the harmonisation of the different legislation from the parties to the KAZA Treaty.
“It’s a difficult process because the TFCA programme is about feeding off the sovereignty for the common good.
“We are expecting more difficulties when we ask the governments to shed off some of their authorities to local communities.
“It is naturally inherent to us to keep what we have so there is need for stakeholder engagement so we need to take this participation seriously,” he said.
The KAZA TFCA is Africa’s largest conservation landscape and the world’s largest trans-frontier conservation initiative. It seeks to develop the management of shared natural and cultural resources to derive equitable socio-economic benefits for member countries.
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