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The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, or KAZA TFCA, is potentially the world’s largest conservation area, spanning five southern African countries; Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, centred around the Caprivi-Chobe-Victoria Falls area.
The goal of the KAZA TFCA is “To sustainably manage the Kavango Zambezi ecosystem, its heritage and cultural resources based on best conservation and tourism models for the socio-economic wellbeing of the communities and other stakeholders in and around the eco-region through harmonization of policies, strategies and practices.”
The KAZA TFCA process evolved from two initiatives namely, the Okavango Upper Zambezi International Tourism Initiative (OUZIT) and the “Four Corners” Transboundary Natural Resource Management initiative. However, unlike its predecessors, the KAZA TFCA initiative is owned and led by the governments of the five partner countries, with a clear focus on conservation as the primary form of land use and tourism being a by-product thereof.
The cornerstone of the KAZA TFCA was laid on 7th December 2006 when the Ministers responsible for environment, natural resources, wildlife and tourism in the Republics of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to negotiate and work towards the establishment of the TFCA. This process is well underway and the MoU will be repealed when the Treaty to formally establish the KAZA TFCA is signed by these partner countries.
The KAZA TFCA is expected to span an area of approximately 287 132 km², almost the size of Italy (300 979 km²) and include no fewer than thirty six (36) formally proclaimed national parks, game reserves, forest reserves, game/wildlife management areas as well as intervening conservation and tourism concessions set aside for consumptive and non-consumptive uses of natural resources.
The biological resources of the KAZA TFCA will incorporate the largest contiguous elephant population on the African continent. The area is also endowed with an abundance and diversity of wildlife species that are of considerable economic and ecological value. The plant life is equally phenomenal with at least 3,000 species, some 100 of which are endemic to the sub-region, as well as more than 600 species of birds that are characteristic of the southern African savannahs, woodlands and wetlands. The KAZA TFCA also includes some of the world’s renowned natural features and tourist attractions, such as the Victoria Falls (one of the seven natural wonders of the earth and a World Heritage Site) and the Okavango Delta (the largest Ramsar Site in the world).
The recognition of the KAZA TFCA as a Southern African Development Community (SADC) project in July 2006 means it is a programme encapsulating the SADC vision of regional integration and the SADC objectives for promoting the wise use of natural resources and effective protection of the natural environment.
The SADC Secretariat draws it mandate to facilitate the establishment and development of TFCAs from a number of SADC instruments aimed at promoting regional socio-economic integration including the Declaration and Treaty of the Southern African Development Community (1992); the SADC Wildlife Policy and Development Strategy (1997); the SADC Environment and Sustainable Policy and Strategy (1998); the SADC Protocol on the Development of Tourism (1998); the revised Protocol on Shared Water Courses (2000); the Protocol on Forestry (2002) and the SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement (1999).
The latter commits the SADC Member States “to promote the conservation of shared wildlife resources through the establishment of TFCAs”. The TFCAs programme also complements the goals of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) and has the potential to alleviate poverty in rural areas.
Like other TFCAs, KAZA conforms to the spirit and intent of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and can help the partner countries attain the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Strategic direction to attain the goal and objectives set by the KAZA TFCA partner countries is provided through the Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) being developed for each partner country’s component of the KAZA TFCA and the Indicative Development Framework (IDF).
The former involves thorough consultative processes with stakeholders, in particular local communities, conducted in each partner country. Once all the plans are prepared for all components of KAZA a Master Integrated Development Plan will be produced. The IDF on the other hand, contains a list of project profiles at either the country level or at a regional level that can be used by International Cooperating Partners to support the development of the KAZA TFCA.