Region to stamp conservation efforts

21 July 2009

NGOMA - The five participating countries in the Kavango Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) are expected to sign the multilateral treaty that will formally establish the KAZA TFCA in April next year, which is set as the deadline when the KAZA project should be in place.

A memorandum of understanding to pave the way for the treaty was already signed by the five countries, namely Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Angola in December 2006.

The treaty will also see the establishment of a framework for harmonisation of policies to allow for the joint management of natural resources and also the development of the five-star hotel, which will have the wings in the four countries sharing borders at Impalila Island in the Caprivi Region.

Minister of Environment and Tourism, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, said on Friday the current infrastructure comprising hotels, border posts, airports, airstrips, lodges, safari camps and the untapped potential to develop more tourism facilities, offer an opportunity to transform KAZA TFCA into a world-class and premier tourist destination in Africa.

According to a feasibility study, the proposed KAZA TFCA could not only attract as many as eight million tourists to the region annually, but also create employment for thousands of people and stimulate socio-economic development.

The proposed KAZA TFCA, the largest conservation area in the world, aims to join the fragmented wildlife habitats into an interconnected assortment of protected areas and transboundary wildlife corridors which will facilitate and enhance the free movement of animals across international boundaries.

The conservation area links a vast network of national parks, game management areas and conservancies covering some more than 278 000 square kilometres.

The area incorporates the Okavango, Zambezi and the Kwando/Linyanti/Chobe river systems and focuses on the region where Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet around Impalila Island. It includes Angola because of its importance as the source of most of the region's rivers.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said Namibia, as the coordinator of KAZA, will make efforts for KAZA programmes to work and urged the secretariat to work tirelessly for the initiative to come to fruition.

Nandi-Ndaitwah was speaking at the Boundless Southern Africa media day close to Ngoma Border Post in the Caprivi Region.

The KAZA TFCA includes 36 formally proclaimed protected areas of different categories as well as intervening conservation tourism concessions set aside for consumptive and non-consumptive use of natural resources.

Of Namibia's 55 gazetted conservancies, 12 form part of the conservation area and nine are found in the Caprivi Region.

"It is on the basis of the potential presented by the vast wildlife, tourism cultural resources in the region that partner countries believe they can derive equitable returns and significant social economic benefits provided they harmonise their conservation policies and practices and use their shared natural resources prudently," said the minister.

The KAZA has immense biodiversity including Savannah, miombo and mopane woodlands, wetlands, approximately 3 000 species of plant life (of which some 100 are endemic) and more than 500 species of birds. Its resident wildlife includes elephant, buffalo, hippopotamus, lion, lechwe, roan, sable, eland, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, puku, bushbuck, sitatunga, wild dogs and spotted hyena.

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