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 that contain significant wildlife.
Wedged between the Luiana Partial Reserve in Angola and the Bwabwata National Park in Namibia, the park plays an essential ecological role in wildlife movement along the Kwando and Zambezi rivers despite it not extending all the way to the Zambezi River. The park and the surrounding area within the West Zambezi Game Management Area have therefore been earmarked for intensive wildlife recovery.
As part of their grant to KAZA TFCA, KfW allocated funding to Sioma Ngwezi National Park. Initial efforts were concentrated on field patrols, infrastructure development, the mitigation of human–wildlife conflict, participation in the Community-centred Conservation and Development (CCCD) programme, compilation of work plans and the 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 Kabula village, which had been subjected to consistent elephant crop raids. Since the erection of the line, the elephant raids have stopped and the community members are no longer losing their food sources to elephants. An elephant-restraining line consists of electrified wires that run about two metres above ground, thus allowing community members free movement while protecting crops from elephants.
Thanks to a donation from the Cleveland Zoological Society in 2012, 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.
In 2013 a hangar and a microlight aircraft were sponsored by Club 21 members Mr Neville and Mrs Pamela Isdell. The microlight is used to monitor and protect the wildlife in the park. In 2014 the construction of the new park headquarters was completed. Funded by BMZ through KfW as part of the KAZA TFCA development, the headquarters include an office complex comprising 10 offices, a boardroom, a kitchenette and a storeroom, as well as an operations block comprising a radio control room, an armoury, two storerooms and an operations office. A separate ablution block also forms part of the complex. In addition, 20 houses for junior staff and five houses for senior staff were built. The design of a radio network covering the project area and making it possible to communicate with neighbouring countries was also finalised.
A VSAT system was installed at the park headquarters, giving the offices Internet connection, and a borehole was sunk to ensure a steady stream of potable water.
Joint law enforcement operations were conducted by Namibian and Zambian forces, carrying out joint patrols on both sides of the border. Contact was made with the Angolan law enforcement agency and a meeting was held in Zambia to exchange information about wildlife-crime hotspots and poacher crossing points. Following this, Angolan forces became part of the cross-border operations. Since then, regular joint meetings have been held. The joint operations conducted by all three countries have yielded good results: wildlife criminals have been arrested in one country, following investigations in another.
As part of the CCCD programme, another eight village scouts were appointed after those previously employed had been upgraded to wildlife police officers.
Thanks to a grant from Mr Neville and Mrs Pamela Isdell, two additional vehicles were purchased for use in the park. This has significantly improved the ability to deploy personnel. In addition, building materials were purchased to build two pickets, which will serve as permanent deployment posts for the wildlife police officers, thereby improving the policing of the park. Camping equipment was also purchased to expedite deployment.
An old building previously used by the Department of Veterinary Services on the northern boundary of the park was renovated by WWF Zambia, as part of the CCCD Programme, and is now used as a permanent picket by wildlife police officers to increase the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) presence in that area.
The general management plan for the Lower West Zambezi Game Management Area, the largest in Zambia, was finalised in November and now awaits signature by the government.
On 30 January 2016 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.