Who pays for wildlife?

Photo: Patrick Bentley
Photo: Patrick Bentley

The tourist arriving at Victoria Falls Airport steps off the plane expecting to see elephants. Televisions beam pictures of a pristine African landscape, teeming with wildlife, into homes in the USA and Europe, from where most visitors to KAZA arrive.

The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, to give its full name to the five country initiative centred on Victoria Falls, brings together national parks and other conservation areas in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Much of the KAZA landscape is communal farm land, where livestock has to co-exist with wildlife.

Here in Africa, farmers pay for wildlife. It was recently calculated by WWF in Namibia that the cost of ten lions ranging out of a national park is 22,000 Euros or 24,000 US Dollars annually. That’s the value of wildlife eaten by the lions, which otherwise could have been hunted or harvested, and of livestock taken from farmers’ kraals.

The tourist also pays for wildlife. Dollars or Euros are spent on lodges and safaris, which pay local wages. With a booming tourism industry based on wildlife, it makes sense for local people to conserve iconic species such as lion and elephant. That was the idea behind KAZA. Sustainable rural development and conservation would be largely funded by tourism.

The dream is much wider than the five countries which first proposed the international conservation area. The idea was promoted by the Peace Parks Foundation, which works to establish transboundary conservation areas across southern Africa, and funded by international donors such as the KfW, one of the world’s leading promotional banks. With its decades of experience, KfW is committed to improving economic, social and ecological living conditions all around the world on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany and the federal states. On behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) KfW  is also assisting the establishment of KAZA though grant aid amounting to 35 million Euros.

Where does the money go?

Setting up a five country conservation and development area is a large enterprise. Each of the countries has engaged teams of experts from conservation NGOs to assist the five governments to work on Integrated Development Plans, and the KAZA Secretariat to produce a master IDP.

With the signing of a hosting agreement with the Botswana government at the symposium, the KAZA Secretariat can now operate as a legal entity, assisting five African partner countries to cooperate in development and conservation.

Most recently, funding from the KfW, the Peace Parks Foundation and WWF made possible a KAZA Symposium, held in Victoria Falls in early November, to analyse the progress of the conservation area and plan the next steps that should make KAZA a success, and create a habitat almost twice the size of Germany for Africa’s elephants, lions, and a wide variety of plains game.

Much of the next tranche of German funding for KAZA will go towards the establishment of wildlife dispersal areas, or WDAs. Here again, the farmer pays for wildlife, because land allocated to wildlife is land not available for cultivation or intensive livestock rearing.

The KAZA Symposium allocated time to specialists to explore how WDAs can work. An example is the Chobe Flood Plain in north-east Namibia, which lies between Botswana and Zambia. This was a hunting ground. Zebras that followed their traditional migratory route were shot for trophies and meat. Cattle took precedence over wildlife.

But with the advent of communal conservancies in Namibia, the area was devoted to wildlife. Cattle still graze on the flood plain, but zebras in their thousands migrate from Botswana into Namibia, north towards the Zambezi River. A tourist lodge stands on the Chobe River, and provides income and work to local residents. There is no fence between the flood plain in Namibia and Chobe National Park in Botswana. Wildlife roams freely.

At the Symposium, experts from WWF and EcoExist outlined ways of creating elephant corridors that link dispersal areas throughout KAZA – and through farming areas. Conservation agriculture is one way of making this possible. New farming techniques that create trenches that hold manure and rainwater more efficiently, and that give crop yields eight times better than conventional ploughing, can mean smaller fields. That creates more space for wildlife, and the fields are easier to protect from crop raiders such as elephants.

Through international institutions such as the KfW, the Peace Parks Foundation and WWF, working together in partnership with African governments and local conservation NGOs such as EcoExist in Botswana and IRDNC in Namibia, new conservation initiatives encapsulate an international conservation spirit, which can cross national boundaries and create space for the wildlife that the tourist wants to see.

WWF communications Namibia
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