Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area

Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area

Case Study by: Mike Eklund

Many of the case studies for Nature Needs Half have involved an area within a defined political jurisdiction at the national, provincial or city level.  It is important to note however, that nature crosses borders and that an ecological region is often spread amongst many different political jurisdictions.  This is the case with NNH case studies  including the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area, the South Caucasus Eco-Region, and the Silk Road.  The most ambitious and the largest transfrontier conservation area in the world, however, is known as the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Area. 

The Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) is situated in Southern Africa on the borders of five sovereign nation-states:  Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  The process of the creation of this territory has evolved from two initiatives (the Okavango Upper Zambezi International Tourism Initiative and the “Four Corners” Transboundary Natural Resource Management Initiative) into the current Memorandum of Understanding signed by the five countries on December 7th, 2006.  The area is situated on the Okavango and Zambezi river basins and is the world’s largest TFCA, spanning an area of approximately 287,132km2 (110,862mi2), which is almost the size of Italy (300,979km2 or 116,208mi2) according to the KAZA TFCA Website.  The area includes 36 national parks, game management areas, game reserves, and community conservancies.  The most notable of these include Victoria Falls, the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park, and the Caprivi Strip.  The area is one of the most ecologically rich places on the planet with an extremely high level of biodiversity.  It is home to the largest contiguous population of elephants on the African continent, with over 250,000.  In addition to the large array of wildlife found in the territory, there are over 600 species of birds and over 3,000 species of plants, with 100 of those being endemic to the region.

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Okavango Delta

The Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) has had a major role in the development of the KAZA TFCA as well as many other TFCAs in Southern Africa.  The PPF was founded on February 1st, 1997 with an initial grant of R1.2 million ($260,000) with the goal of facilitating the development of TFCAs across Southern Africa.  The concept for a separate organization devoted to TFCAs was introduced by the Executive Committee of WWF South Africa including Anton Rupert, President of WWF South Africa who kick-started the first TFCA in Southern Africa in Southern Mozambique, Swaziland and Eastern South Africa.

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There are three categories of projects that occur in the transfrontier area:  Conservation projects, infrastructure development, and tourism development.  One major conservation project that is being carried out in the TFCA is the development of a network of ecological corridors, a key component of the Nature Needs Half approach, all linking to a central core of the KAZA TFCA.  Another key project for the TFCA in the Zambian portion is the Simalaha Wildlife Recovery Area Project, which established a collaborative effort by two Chiefdoms along the banks of the Kasaya River.  The goal of the project is to ultimately increase the wildlife numbers to what they were in the 1970s, with the hopes of ultimately attracting more tourism and stimulating the local economy.  Another major project is to clear the landmines in the Angolan portion of the TFCA left over from their Civil War.

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African Elephant

In addition to conservation projects, there are also a wide variety of projects devoted to developing the infrastructure in the region.  These projects have been funded and implemented by a wide variety of Western governments and NGOs.  The first major injection of capital into the area came from the German government through their development bank, KfW, which amounted to around €430,000.  These were the funds that ultimately allowed for the development of this initiative since 2008.  The German Government has sanctioned another €8 million to be allocated towards further projects.  Other governments that have contributed to the development of the area by allocating funds include those of the Netherlands, the United States and Switzerland.  There have been many NGOs involved in the development of infrastructure as well including the Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Conservation International (CI).

The WILD Foundation has a unique connection to the KAZA TFCA, as one of its programs known as Tracks of Giants (a journey across Southern Africa along ancient African Elephant migration paths) crossed through the area.  Tracks of Giants (under WILD and The Wilderness Foundation Africa) involved a team of regional conservationists, trackers, local conservationists and media officials trekking on foot, by kayak and mountain bike some 5614km (3488mi) across Southern Africa from Namibia in the West to Mozambique in the East, crossing through the KAZA TFCA along the way.  Along the way, the team met with local communities to survey and document conservation issues as well as issues relating to the local population such as supplying clean water.  For video coverage of TOG with reference to KAZA, click here.  One of WILD’s regional partners, also involved in TOG, is Elephants Without Borders, which is working throughout KAZA and beyond.

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The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area is an excellent example of how governments of neighboring nations can work together to ultimately protect the common ecoregion in which they are situated.  With the continued development of conservation and infrastructure development programs, the region has the potential to become one of the world’s largest and most successful conservation areas.

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