KAZA Symposium

Photo: Jana Smith
Photo: Jana Smith

A symposium to review KAZA, the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation area (KAZA TFCA) is taking place from 31 October to 2 November in Victoria Falls, drawing together governments, conservation and development NGOs, conservation biologists and other scientists to look at progress over the last ten years and to map a way forward for integrated conservation and development in the KAZA area.

The KAZA TFCA is Africa’s largest conservation landscape and the world’s largest transfrontier conservation initiative joining areas of five countries: Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which have entered into a partnership to conserve biodiversity at scale using nature-based tourism as the engine for rural economic growth and development.

The five partner countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 7 December 2006 at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and five years later the KAZA Treaty was signed in Luanda, Angola on 18 August 2011. The TFCA is supported by a Secretariat based in Botswana, and conservation NGOs.

The State of KAZA Symposium, to be held at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, is therefore a celebration of success in conservation collaboration across African borders, as well as an opportunity to assess progress and challenges.

The objectives of KAZA, an area as large as France and bigger than California, are to manage the shared natural resources of the area fed by two of Africa’s major rivers, and to support healthy and viable populations of wildlife species. This will be achieved by providing opportunities, facilities and infrastructure to transform the KAZA TFCA into a premier tourist destination, benefitting rural populations.

As a five country conservation initiative, the harmonization of policies in wildlife management, landscape planning and tourism will lead to greater connectivity between national parks and communal conservation areas through wildlife movement corridors, and the reduction of barriers to wildlife movement such as fencing.

The Symposium agenda is based upon the KAZA Master Integrated Development Plan, a five-year strategy produced in 2014 to steer development of the TFCA at a regional level. It will begin with a review of the three main components of the plan: integrated natural resource management & land use planning; tourism development; and community development, alternative Livelihoods and governance.

Unlike a parks-based approach, where people are excluded from wildlife areas, the KAZA TFCA aims to integrate the previously competing land-uses of agriculture and a wildlife-based economy. By encouraging the growth of community and nature-based tourism, KAZA will provide alternative income generating possibilities to rural communities, which will lead to a greater tolerance of wildlife by farmers.

The three-day Symposium will provide an opportunity for conservation and development specialists to review progress towards the harmonization of policies, the establishment of tourism infrastructure, and capacity building of communities to play a greater role in the management of their own natural resources. The Symposium will break into thematic groups to examine the implementation of the five-year strategy in detail, to seek solutions to challenges, and to advise on future options. Experts in conservation, tourism, financial services, veterinary science, land–use planning and community development will be able to exchange views.

Ministerial delegations and representatives of traditional authorities will take part in the Symposium, reinforcing the political support from the five KAZA states and community representatives to achieve the twin goals of conservation at scale and rural development.

One of the objectives of KAZA is to “promote and facilitate the harmonization of relevant legislation, policies and approaches in the area of transboundary animal disease prevention, surveillance and control within the KAZA TFCA.” Immediately following the Symposium a follow-on workshop will be held to consider the implementation of commodity-based trade of beef in KAZA, under the auspices of the KAZA Secretariat, in collaboration with the AHEAD Programme and FAO, and with support from The Rockefeller Foundation and the Planetary Health Alliance.

Wildlife and livestock production are in conflict in the KAZA area partly due to the prevalence of animal diseases – especially foot and mouth disease – that can be transmitted across species. The workshop will bring together stakeholders from the livestock and wildlife sectors to discuss important opportunities associated with key 2015 changes to international disease management standards pertaining to beef trade – ones that facilitate an approach to beef production that is more compatible with wildlife conservation, and which would thus be a ‘win-win’ for sustainable and diversified land uses and livelihoods.

The workshop will be a practical example of KAZA in action: an African transboundary conservation area harmonizing agricultural policies and promoting land use that embraces wildlife and livestock to the benefit of rural communities and conservation.

Steve Felton
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Photo: Will Burrard-Lucas
Photo: Will Burrard-Lucas