Treaty establishing the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) signed
Marking another major step in southern Africa’s transfrontier conservation development, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Malawi, Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika, and His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu on 7 July 2015 signed the treaty that formally establishes the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre, Malawi.
The Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area includes the Nyika-North Luangwa component, which is centred on a high undulating montane grassland plateau rising over 2 000 m above the bushveld and wetlands of Vwaza Marsh.
In summer a multitude of wild flowers and orchids burst forth on the highlands, making it a sight unlike any seen in most other game parks. Kasungu/Lukusuzi TFCA, on the other hand, is an area of importance for biodiversity conservation in the Central Zambezian Miombo Woodland Ecoregion.
An MoU towards the establishment of the Malawi-Zambia TFCA was signed on 13 August 2004.
The Nyika–North Luangwa component of the Malawi-Zambia TFCA comprises Malawi’s Nyika National Park, the Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve, Zambia’s North Luangwa National Park, Nyika National Park, Lundazi Forest Reserve, Mitenge Forest Reserve, Mikuti Forest Reserve and the Musalangu Game Management Area. A joint law enforcement project operated by a single unit across international borders to combat poaching was initiated in 2005. The reduction in poaching and the improvement in animal sightings allowed the start of a wildlife restocking programme for Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve in 2007. In April 2011 the World Bank’s board of executive directors approved a Global Environmental Facility (GEF) trust fund grant for the more effective cross-border management of biodiversity in the TFCA. In addition, co-financing commitments were secured from the Norwegian Embassy in Malawi, Peace Parks Foundation and the governments of Malawi and Zambia.
Thanks to the funding, field activities got off the ground in earnest. With sufficient fuel, which was previously a serious constraint, law enforcement activities could be implemented more systematically. Office furniture, vehicles, equipment and uniforms were also procured, while project staff members were recruited and staff training got under way. Thanks to World Bank funding, uniforms and patrolling equipment were delivered to field rangers, while entrance gates, staff houses and offices were renovated and new staff houses were constructed. Wooden bridges, which poachers easily burn, were replaced with concrete ones.
In August 2014, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development committed funding to SADC under its financial cooperation programme to develop the Malawi-Zambia TFCA.
In 2015, the SADC Secretariat approved a three-year project to support the development and management of the Kasungu-Lukusuzi component of the TFCA. The project will be funded by the German government, through GIZ, and will focus on institutional planning and coordination, effective management of protected areas, community livelihood support and land-use planning between the two parks.
In an important development, the presidents of Malawi and Zambia signed a treaty that formally establishes the Malawi-Zambia TFCA on 7 July 2015. The treaty is supported by the TFCA’s integrated management development framework, an extensive and comprehensive five-year plan that will guide the work of various TFCA structures.
A ministerial committee meeting held in Lilongwe in April 2016 approved that the TFCA will be managed by a joint integrated management committee; that the TFCA secretariat will rotate between the partner countries every three years, with Malawi assuming leadership for the first three years; and appointed Peace Parks Foundation as implementing agent, except for North Luangwa National Park, where Frankfurt Zoological Society was appointed as implementing agent. The ministers also approved the TFCA’s sustainable financial strategy and policy harmonisation reports.
Infrastructure was maintained and upgraded, particularly in the Zambian component of the TFCA. A new office block was completed at Chama and is housing the Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife staff. Apart from offices, the office block also contains a conference facility and an armoury. A village scouts’ camp consisting of seven houses and an office was also completed in the Chama Community Conservation Area.
Considerable progress was made to support community livelihoods, largely with the aid of service providers - COMACO for Zambia and Total LandCare for Malawi. Two types of training were conducted, one on beekeeping and the other on community law enforcement. The beekeeping training was financed by the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, while the community law enforcement training was funded through the CarbonTrading Project facilitated by Total LandCare. The latter also distributed chickens to communities, as a means of contributing to the protein and income needs of communities.
Deutche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Peace Parks Foundation signed a funding agreement for the Kasungu-Lukusuzi component, focusing on formalising cross-border institutional arrangements, establishing co-management agreements and contributing to sustainable livelihoods for communities. Funding will also be provided to include the Kasungu-Lukusuzi component in the integrated management and development framework.
Law enforcement efforts in Kasungu National Park have improved thanks to support from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Thanks to Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife and local NGOs, wildlife crime has been elevated to the top of the political agenda, and the international community is rallying to help the world’s poorest country. A new radio communication network, with handsets, was installed and covers all camps in Nyika National Park and Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve.
Community sensitisation meetings resulted in the voluntary surrendering of firearms. In Vwaza, community sensitisation activities were coupled with the distribution of chickens and goats under the Community Livelihood Programme, supported by the government of Norway. The Kasungu Community Association was established, while a beekeeping club was founded at Mdaka Village. A borehole was also drilled for the Mdaka community. A 600 m fence line consisting of beehives was erected to stop elephant from leaving the park. When elephants disturb a beehive, they trigger its defensive swarming response, which often leads to bees stinging the sensitive tissue inside their trunks. Being such intelligent animals, elephants have learned to associate bees with excruciating nose pain and are known to warn each other to retreat from the sound of buzzing bees.
On 20 October, Malawi and Zambia launched the Kasungu-Lukusuzi component of the TFCA, with the aim to reduce the unsustainable use of natural resources by promoting alternative livelihood options for the communities living in and around the TFCA.