Saturday, 30 January 2016 saw the official opening of the Sioma Ngwezi National Park headquarters in Zambia by Deputy Minister of Tourism and Arts, Mr Patrick Ngoma. Also participating in the ceremony was Mr Stephan Neu, KfW Country Director and Induna Inanduko of the Barotse Royal Establishment. Community members came out in full force to celebrate the opening.
Situated in south-western Zambia, Sioma Ngwezi National Park is strategically positioned on the borders of Zambia with Namibia and Angola. While the park now forms part of the national conservation estate of Zambia, it was previously part of the traditional conservation estate of the Barotse Royal Establishment, reflecting the value that traditional African societies place on areas with significant wildlife.
Wedged between the Luiana Partial Reserve in Angola and the Bwabwata National Park in Namibia, the park plays an essential ecological role for wildlife movement along the Kwando and Zambezi rivers despite it not extending all the way to the Zambezi River.
Once an area teeming with wildlife, these have unfortunately been decimated as a result of the area being used as an operational base for various military forces during the conflicts which have characterised the history of the region.
The park and the surrounding area within the West Zambezi Game Management Area have been earmarked for intensive wildlife recovery. Numerous wildlife species with distribution ranges limited to the area west of the Zambezi formerly occurred in the park and the wildlife recovery will include the restocking of these species.
As part of their grant to KAZA TFCA, KfW allocated €3.3 million to Sioma Ngwezi National Park. Initial efforts were concentrated on field patrols, the mitigation of human/wildlife conflict, participation in the Community Centred Conservation and Development (CCCD) programme, compilation of work plans and finalisation of the Ngonye Falls development plan.
In 2010, Peace Parks Foundation, with support from The Rufford Foundation and the CCCD programme, erected an elephant-restraining line around the village. An elephant-restraining line consists of electrified wires that run two metres above ground, thereby allowing communities free movement while protecting crops from elephants.
Thanks to a donation from the Cleveland Zoological Society, tents were erected at the Kwando ranger outpost, a wooden cabin was built to accommodate the technical adviser and a boat and outdoor motor were purchased for law enforcement patrols on the Kwando River.
In another development, vital to visitor numbers, the road between Sesheke and the park was tarred.
Nineteen scouts underwent training, while park staff received training in infrastructure development and computer skills. Twelve new wildlife police officers were selected and trained at the
Chunga training facility in Kafue National Park for a period of three months, while a number of officers underwent training at the Southern African Wildlife College.
In February 2013 the Zambian Minister of Tourism and Arts officially opened a hangar, which was constructed by Peace Parks Foundation, and launched a Bat Hawk microlight for Sioma Ngwezi National Park. The hangar and the microlight were both sponsored by Mr Neville and Mrs Pamela Isdell, who have since become Club 21 members. The microlight will be used to monitor and protect the wildlife of the park.
The construction of the new park headquarters was completed in 2014. Funded as part of the KAZA TFCA development by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, through KfW, it includes 11 offices, a radio control room, an ablution block, 20 houses for junior staff and five houses for senior staff. The houses were all connected to water and electricity and the staff moved in. A V-Sat system was installed to enable the offices to have Internet connection and a borehole was sunk to ensure a steady stream of good quality water.
On 30 January 2015 the headquarters were officially opened by Deputy Minister of Tourism and Arts, Mr Patrick Ngoma. Also participating in the ceremony was Mr Stephan Neu, KfW Country Director and Induna Inanduko of the Barotse Royal Establishment. Community members came out in full force to celebrate the opening.