Guest Column: Tinashe Farawo

THE Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) is a successor to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management.

ZimParks falls under the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry.

The authority was established under the Parks and Wildlife Act of 1996 (Chapter 20:14) as amended by Act Number 19 of 2001 which came into operation on June 1, 2002 through Statutory Instrument 144C of 2002.

The rationale behind the establishment of the authority was to allow ZimParks to retain revenue generated for the purpose of funding operations (self-funding mechanism) and thereby reduce its dependence on central government.

This entailed the introduction of a strategic commercial function for supporting conservation and putting in place strategic revenue generation and financial management systems.

This was based on the premise that conservation business could make a significant contribution towards paying for itself, hence the call to say elephants for example must pay for their upkeep.

Prior to this enactment, the cost of managing parks and protected areas in Zimbabwe was borne by the State and donor funding.

The authority now undertakes a number of commercial activities from which it generates funds for conservation.

Since the coming in of Fulton Mangwanya as the director general of ZimParks in August 2017, the authority crafted a five-year strategy to adopt adaptive management in wildlife conservation.

One of the avenues to achieve this is partnering with other conservation organisations to learn new methods and to build technical and financial capacity in an effort to protect the country’s wildlife for the benefit of current and future generations.

Over the last few months, the authority signed agreements with various organisations including African Parks and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

The agreements are meant to co-operate in conservation, management, combating wildlife crime and human wildlife conflict, which has claimed dozens of lives over the last few years.

Most of the organisations assisting the authority in wildlife management and conservation have proven track records of successful adaptive conservation management practices.

The agreement between African Parks and ZimParks is to jointly seek funding for the management and development of Matusadonha National Park.

Provision of socio-economic benefits to local communities through job creation, infrastructure development, construction of schools and clinics.

The agreements were signed in line with the Joint Venture Act Chapter 22:22.

Needless to say that the agreement was signed after an approval from the Finance ministry through the joint venture unit.

The agreement was submitted to the Finance ministry’s joint venture unit that conducted a comprehensive due diligence exercise whose outcome led to a request to Cabinet for approval for ZimParks to enter into a co-management agreement with African Parks.

The Finance ministry officials visited some of the parks managed by African Parks as part of the due diligence process before approving the agreement.

African Parks shall identify and promote commercial investment opportunities for tourism purposes and is set to inject US$11,5 million in five years, which shall see improved access by road to the park, improved resource allocation and enhanced anti-poaching activities.

Over the next five years, the partnership is set to reintroduce black rhinos in the park among other animals.

According to section 12 of the Parks and Wildlife Act concerning funds of the authority there is therefore need for the organisation to venture into business activities and also source funding from like-minded stakeholders and partners.

ZimParks has signed several memorandums of agreement/understanding with other organisations such as wildlife NGOs, Civil society and universities.

There is no doubt that before an agreement is signed it goes through a rigorous process that involves internal staff, directorate, board of directors and the responsible ministry.

The vision of the organisation is to promote sustainable conservation thus due diligence is taken before any new conservation partnerships are signed.

Most of the organisations ZimParks is working with have already successfully implemented projects under similar partnerships that saw protected areas that were facing financial related challenges, being managed better with the availability of resources.

ZPWMA has core-management agreements for example in Gonarezhou National Park and Umfurudzi Recreational Park, which are currently being run under partnerships and they have proved to be successful in park management, law enforcement, and tourism and community engagement.

The authority has been supported by various NGOs over the years and these include Peace Parks, which has supported the establishment of transfrontier conservation areas within Sadc over the last 20 years.

Some of these partnerships will result in resources being availed for conservation, translocation of wildlife to boost wildlife populations and improved accessibility to the area.

The protected areas in Zimbabwe are designed such that the national parks are source areas for the Safari areas where hunting occurs.

Therefore, having partnerships to better manage national parks actually supports the consumptive tourism industry by providing the much needed trophy wildlife.

The organisation is only co-operating with partners in areas where we share common goals for example, curbing poaching, and illegal wildlife trade and infrastructure development.

In addition, during the tenure of the agreement both partners will be engaging and agreeing on methodology and operating procedures such that the vision and mandate of the organisation is not ignored or the country’s position of sustainable utilisation.

Since the coming in of the new dispensation in November 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been preaching re-engagement with the international community.

Therefore, ZimParks is playing its part to engage and re-engage with the international community through conservation and wildlife management.

The authority is eternally grateful to both local and international conservation partners who are working on the conservation and management of the country’s wildlife for the benefit of current and future generations despite differences in conservation policy and ideology.

 Tinashe Farawo is the Head of Communications at Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority.