Joining hands in regional conservation and tourism development

 

New Era’s regional reporter covering the two Kavango regions, John Muyamba, who went to cover the recent State of KAZA Symposium 2016 held at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, caught up with Dr Morris Mtsambiwa, the executive director of the KAZA Secretariat, whilst there, to ask him some questions on the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA-TFCA) and the KAZA Secretariat.

NE: Tell us what is KAZA-TFCA all about?
MM: “KAZA-TFCA is a conservation and tourism development initiative of five partner countries, namely Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This initiative came about as a result of the fact that conservation is about wildlife, and wildlife moves in the region and does not observe international borders, so the partner countries realised that it is important to jointly manage the shared resources while developing tourism for the benefit of local communities, so by coming together it provides a platform for these countries to engage in collaboration on the aspect of tourism development and conservation.”

NE: Since the partner countries started working together, how is the working environment? Are they all on the same page?
MM: ‘’I think the best way to answer that question is to indicate that we are working under a treaty that was signed by heads of state and government to establish the KAZA-TFCA, so it is at that level that the KAZA programme is in place. Yes, each country has its own laws and practices and so forth but when it comes to the KAZA process we have to identify common ground from which we then agree on harmonization, because there’s no point in trying to manage a wildlife population without approaching management from the same point of view.”

NE: How has the KAZA-TFCA been taken by communities in their areas and how are these communities benefitting?
MM: “To start off, the heads of state and government in their treaty clearly stipulate that we should involve all stakeholders in the development of KAZA and that all stakeholders should see tangible benefits for total buy-in. So whatever programmes we are doing right now for the local communities are to increase their participation in the planning and development of the KAZA-TFCA so that we maximise benefits for them.
“In most cases right now you will find that some of the communities are inactive participants and as long as you are an inactive participant you do not receive full benefits, but as an active participant you are bound to receive full benefits from your efforts so we are involving them at all levels, from the planning stage, the implementation stage and so forth.

“You are aware that at the symposium the community representatives through Chief Mukuni from Zambia gave a keynote address. He clearly informed the public that for KAZA to succeed it has to involve the local community, because those are the people who will not only bear the brunt of living with wildlife but had previously lived with wildlife in harmony, which is an issue which has been disturbed after introducing new laws through isolating them and so on and now they are saying come back to us and we will be in a position to analyse the problems, challenges, and then suggest solutions which you will find easy to implement because we will be part of the solution. The communities benefit through community tourism, business opportunities within tourism development, and they get returns from those activities.”

NE: Where is KAZA-TFCA now in terms of achievement? Can you highlight some of the challenges that KAZA-TFCA has faced during the establishment period and the achievements that have come out of it?
MM: “We now have a regional secretariat that is being hosted by Botswana. We just signed the hosting agreement at the symposium and it is working under the direction of the ministerial committee, committee of senior officials and also a joint management committee. We also have a strong political wheel and commitment – that’s the environment we are working in. We have the support that we need and we also have an integrated master plan which has been approved and which demonstrates a shared vision.

“I want to say that one of the major successes in the last 10 years is that a structure is now in place to run the day to day developments of KAZA. We have a ministerial committee that is tasked with overseeing this development and under that same ministerial committee is the committee of senior officials and then a committee of the joint management board committee, which includes the agencies of the five countries that are involved in conservation and after that comes the secretariat. We have established a secretariat and we have just signed the hosting agreement with Botswana at the just ended symposium. Botswana has been looking after the secretariat for the last six years and as of the 31st of October the secretariat became a legal entity within the Botswana system.

“We have a functioning secretariat. The need to work with all stakeholders is critical for KAZA, therefore one of the most important documents that KAZA has come up with, by 2011, is the stakeholder engagement strategy and this is what we are trying to follow. Other documents such as local development plans for each country have been prepared and produced as a summary in a master integrated development plan, which was approved in June 2015. For us that is another milestone because that master integrated development plan is one that is going to be the framework for the development of KAZA in the next five years. That is a very important document to ensure that we move forward.

“The challenge now is to find funding or to mobilise enough resources to implement this master integrated development plan, that is the major challenge, and one of the reasons why we had the symposium is to sell the whole idea to international cooperative partners and others that might be interested in assisting us. I just want to add that those are also important stakeholders for us that we have to put into consideration.

“Then the other success that I can tell you is that the programme has been assisting individual governments through their conservation agencies to achieve or to enhance their capacity by providing necessary infrastructure and procuring relevant equipment and so forth. When it comes to infrastructure one example that comes to mind is the Sioma-Ngweze National Park headquarters in Zambia, which was built under the project, and in Botswana the programme built 12 staff houses at Pandamatenga to ensure that the living conditions for the staff who are always in the bush for controlling purposes are improved. And for Namibia I can look at the buying of vehicles and boats, including a hovercraft for patrolling and redeploying people in the Zambezi Region. This programme didn’t move smoothly – again there were a lot of challenges, for example the procurement process for the donor and that of the country might not work together smoothly, implying delays in the implementation of the programme to an extent that in some cases the delays have appeared to be a slow burn rate in the implementation of the project, so these are the things we want to be addressed. “Another success I want to talk about is the ‘univisa’. Remember we said the work of KAZA is to facilitate free movement of animals and also to facilitate the free movement of tourists, and the univisa is one such attempt to ensure free movement of tourists. However, while the pilot phase was successful the actual rollout of the univisa has not been easy because some of the challenges that we encountered during the pilot phase still have to be sorted out before we can start issuing that visa smoothly – so the partner countries are working on it.”

NE: How is KAZA funded and by whom?
MM: “KAZA is funded in two ways – through international cooperative partners, and so far we have had one big donor in the form of the Federal Republic of Germany through its development bank KfW; and other cooperative partners like WWF, Peace Parks Foundation, NWF and so forth which have assisted us on this journey; but most important is that the partner countries themselves have set up a fund, and although the fund hasn’t started working money is accruing in that fund which will be able to support the secretariat going forward; for example, every year each country contributes US$60 000 to this fund. One of the challenges to this fund is that some partner countries have delayed in making the payment because of difficult economic situations, but all the partner countries have shown a commitment to that process.”

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