The governments of the partner countries acknowledge that the local communities living within and around protected areas must be direct beneficiaries of this initiative even though the primary objective of the TFCA initiative is biodiversity conservation.
No survey has yet been conducted of the total number of people living within the KAZA TFCA, but estimates put this number at between 2 – 2.5 million people. These individuals already bear the direct opportunity costs for living in close
proximity to protected areas by having to contend with crop and property damage due to human wildlife conflict; limited rights for use of natural resources; and the threat of livestock disease.
Except for recognised and established tourist hubs, these communities also tend to be more vulnerable, suffering higher levels of poverty, illiteracy, and under-development. TFCA initiatives are geared to be the vehicles of change in these areas by enabling sharing of knowledge and expertise across borders both at the community and government levels; focusing the development of tourism and other sources of alternative livelihoods; reviewing the rights of local communities over natural resources; building capacity within local communities to manage natural resources and enter into agreements with the private sector; and generation of income for development projects.
Being a critical stakeholder group in the KAZA initiative, it is essential that this group has a voice in the planning and development processes of the KAZA TFCA. This voice is offered through a variety of means. At the national level, several of the National Steering Committees comprise representation from Community
Integrated Development Plans developed for each partner country’s component of the KAZA TFCA have and are being produced through an intensive consultative process. Communications materials regularly produced by the KAZA TFCA authorities provide regular updates on the initiative to the communities.
Community Working Group: Comprises relevant expertise from each partner country who through this working group, guide the development of the TFCA to ensure that the interests of the local communities in each partner country are addressed and information effectively disseminated and exchanged with them.
Human Wildlife Conflict: Continues to pose a formidable challenge to protected area managers, conservationists and communities alike. Many species of wildlife are involved in this conflict, from lions and leopards which are known to raid livestock to antelope species and elephants involved in crop depredation and in the latter case, may occasionally cause bodily harm or damage property. Although complete eradication of conflict is not possible in these zones where human habitats overlap with wildlife habitats, the employment of effective mitigation strategies can ensure that conflict levels remain minimal so that communities do not view conservation as an obstacle to their development.