FIVE southern African presidents have signed a treaty giving birth to the world’s largest conservation area – roughly the size of Sweden.
The 444000km2 Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, known as Kaza, is the latest addition to Africa’s system of “peace parks” – vast conservation areas that straddle international borders and big enough to encompass entire biomes.
The Peace Parks Foundation announced on Friday that the treaty had been signed at the Southern African Development Community summit in Luanda by the presidents of the five countries: Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
It said the signing of the treaty affirmed the commitment these countries made in 2006 when they signed a memorandum of understanding to help establish the transfrontier conservation area.
The concept for the peace park was first agreed to by the five countries in 2003.
The Kaza park is to include 36 national parks, game reserves, community conservancies and game management areas. It will also include the Caprivi Strip, Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta and the Victoria Falls.
It has about 250 000 elephants, the largest contiguous population of elephants in Africa.
“The five states aim to ensure the natural resources they share across their international boundaries along the Kavango and Zambezi River basins are conserved and managed prudently for present and future generations, within the context of sustainable development,” the foundation said.
Peace parks are not the same as traditional national parks or game reserves. Although their purpose is conservation, there are a number of land uses, including agriculture, and people live in the parks.
The aim of establishing peace parks is to create a network of areas that link ecosystems across international borders, where the natural environment is protected. A network of these parks would create corridors for the movement of animals, crucial for the conservation of species.
The parks also aim to develop human resources and contribute to environmentally sustainable economic development.
They are called “peace parks” because this type of conservation and development is done in the hope of bringing stability to regions.
“The Kaza Transfrontier Conservation Area is characterised by a mosaic of land uses, diversity of culture, peoples and languages, differing national capacities and natural resource management practices,” the foundation said.
“Tourism development in the conservation area will be one vehicle for socio-economic growth in the region, aimed at improving the livelihood of the primary beneficiaries of the transfrontier park.”
Former president Nelson Mandela said of peace parks: “I know of no political movement, no philosophy, no ideology, which does not agree with the peace parks concept as we see it going into fruition today.
“It is a concept that can be embraced by all. In a world beset by conflicts and division, peace is one of the cornerstones of the future.
“Peace parks are a building block in this process, not only in our region, but potentially in the entire world.”
Watch the below clip to see how the Transfrontier Conservation Area has affected a local community in Zambia...