From George Maponga recently at SAVE VALLEY CONSERVANCY, in Chiredzi
Government has started the regularisation of hundreds of settlers who occupied parts of the Save Valley Conservancy at the height of the land reform programme as the state intensifies plans to restructure the wildlife-rich conservancy. At the end of the regularisation exercise, communities around Save Valley would be assisted to venture into irrigation farming through a $20 million grant extended to Zimbabwe by the European Union last month.The restructuring would culminate into the demarcation of a new boundary to stem rampant conflict between humans and wild animals.
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority is spearheading the restructuring exercise after the conservancy was incorporated into parks estates by Government.
Save Valley has been hard hit by poaching, a development blamed on conflict between humans and wild animals.
Hundreds of families have been staying in some properties at Save Valley, which they occupied during the days of the fast track land redistribution exercise.
Government has ruled out evicting these families and has since resolved to regularise their stay. The regularisation exercise gained momentum after the EU extended a grant to Zimbabwe under the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (campfire).
When The Herald visited Save Valley recently, it emerged that Government, through the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement wanted to flush out illegal settlers from the conservancy.
Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Senator Shuvai Mahofa, yesterday confirmed that Government had started the regularisation exercise.
“There are some settlers who will remain in some of the outskirts properties which they occupied at the height of the land redistribution programme, these families will not be affected and their stay will be regularised so that the ongoing restructuring of the conservancy to stem human/wildlife conflict flows smoothly’’.
“However, all illegal invaders at Save Valley will be flushed out because we want order and sanity to prevail especially considering that there has been a lot of noise coming from Government, warning some of the illegal settlers that they were risking their lives by building homes in an area infested with dangerous predators as lions,’’ she added.
Sen Mahofa said the Masvingo provincial leadership was fully behind the new thrust by Government to restructure Save Valley in a development that would separate wildlife from humans.
“We want a fence to be erected around Save Valley and we are in agreement with what Government, through the Ministry of Environment Water and Climate is doing to make sure that there is peaceful co-existence between communities and wildlife,’’ added Sen Mahofa.
“We have agreed that all the families who will be outside the new restructured Save Valley should benefit through capacitation of their agricultural activities. The campfire grant from the EU will be used to help the families venture into irrigation so that they are self-reliant in food production,’’ she added
The ongoing restructuring of Save Valley comes as wildlife operators in the conservancy have entered into empowerment programmes with villagers from the surrounding communities as part of efforts to curb poaching.
Communities around Save Valley led by their chiefs namely Tshovani and Gudo from Chiredzi district together with Budzi in Bikita, agreed with the conservancy operators that a Chiefs’ Trust be set up where resources to develop their areas would be pooled.
Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, recently convened an all stakeholders meeting in the Lowveld with parties with interests at the Save Valley.
Save Valley has more than 20 properties with at least seven protected under the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA).
Save Valley straddles for over 340 000 hectares and shares a boundary with communities in Bikita and Chiredzi districts in Masvingo province together with Chipinge district in Manicaland.