Five Countries Create Peace Park
In a world constantly bombarded with news of wars and fighting between tribes and nations, it’s refreshing to know that in the heart of Africa, peace is taking hold.
Five nations that form the central heart of the continent, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana recently signed the final documents to create an enormous conservation zone that encompasses 170,000 sq. miles (44,000 sq. kilometers) or 109 million acres. Altogether, the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) or KAZA Peace Park, will include 36 game reserves, numerous national parks, forest reserves, conservancies, game and wildlife management areas and communal lands.
This vast area is home to about 45 percent, or estimated 325,000 of Africa’s elephants, and is reported to have at least 600 bird species and more than 3,000 plant species as well as other game animals, including zebra, giraffe, buffalo and lion. The land is diverse with four main structural vegetation types: Dry forest (Cryptosepalum), various types of woodland (Baikiaea, miombo, mopane, Acacia), grassland and wetlands.
KAZA was signed into effect in Namibia, six years after the original Memorandum of Understanding was signed. Already, boundary fences are coming down, opening up the migration routes for the animals that once roamed unrestricted in the area. These contiguous conservation areas are essential to the sustainability of the region.
According to Chris Weaver, the World Wildlife Fund’s regional director in Namibia, previous attempts to set up massive cross-border conservancies have failed because the local communities weren’t included in the process. “This is very different. It has a very strong community focus,” he said. Local tourism jobs in communities are providing revenue and in turn, the locals protect the environment.
“It is good news for conservation in southern Africa — Chris Weaver”
Weaver said that last year (2011) rural Namibians earned some $700,000 from their own conservation-related activities. The money went toward further training, transportation, water supplies and improvements for schools and clinics.
An independent secretariat has been established to coordinate the state wildlife authorities and community groups across the region. Initial funding came primarily from the German KFW development bank, which provided $40 million to get KAZA established.
According to the World Wildlife Fund site, KAZA has the potential to address several key issues that impact wildlife populations:
- Poaching – By joining forces, the five countries can more effectively combat international wildlife trade and poaching through information sharing, joint patrols and surveillance, as well as harmonized law enforcement policies.
- Economic and Conservation Resources – Partnering countries can pool their resources to protect the landscape and attract investors to the region, providing an economic boost to the people who live within the conservation area.
- Landmines in Southeast Angola – A remnant of Angola’s past civil war, there is hope that KAZA will help leverage the resources necessary to finally remove them.
- Fences – Thousands of miles of fence are spread across the KAZA landscape impeding the natural and historic movement of elephants and other species. Assisted by increased interest and investment in the region, solutions may be found to reopen corridors allowing for wildlife movement.
- Protection of species – All of this work will go towards increasing wildlife populations and providing them the freedom to roam. Additionally, KAZA will help protect upland forests, critical to river flows and wetlands.
There are still numerous obstacles to overcome, one being the existence of landmines along the Angola/Namibia border. During the wars in these countries, this area was a battlefield and the scars of war are still visible. “The existence of landmines, without doubt, represents the challenge, which should be defeated at all costs for viability in the implementation of the KAZA project,” Angola’s Minister of Hotels and Tourism Pedro Mutindi said.
Oftentimes called Peace Parks, there are numerous Transfrontier Parks around the world, including The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park across the United States/Canada border, which was the first Peace Park in the Americas and El Pilar Archeological Reserve for Maya Flora and Fauna, spanning the Belize/Guatemala border. And surprisingly, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea is being considered as a possible Peace Park.
Other support for KAZA is provided by German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development KFW, Netherlands Directorate-General of Development Cooperation (DGIS), The Rufford Foundation, Dutch Postcode Lottery and the Swedish Postcode Lottery