Greater Mapungubwe TFCA

Transfrontier peace park straddling SA, Botswana, Zimbabwe closer to reality

The proposed Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) including SA, Botswana and Zimbabwe is a step closer to reality with the signing of a memorandum by Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk and his foreign counterparts last week.

The sixth and last of the memorandums to be signed with countries along SA’s borders will link the newly created Mapungubwe National. Park with Botswana’s Tuli Block and the Tuli Safari area of Zimbabwe to form the Limpopo Shashe TFCA.

TFCAs – also known as Peace Parks – represent a new approach to the conservation of natural resources and tourism development. They have the aim of facilitating and promoting regional peace, co-operation and socio-economic development for the countries involved.

While the biggest challenge lies in finding donors to help in the development, the need to ensure community development, re-establish wildlife migration across borders and deal with associated disease problems still pose major obstacles.

Establishing a successful Peace Park requires substantial financial support from the state, with perhaps the bulk of funding needing to come from the private sector.

The Peace Parks Foundation is the mandated fundraiser for TFCAs. Willem van Riet, CE of the Peace Park Foundation, says about R5m is spent just on preparation of memorandums of understanding for every Peace Park. He says project development is heavily dependent on private donors.

For the development of the Limpopo National Park TFCA alone, a R60m grant was secured from the German government through German development bank Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau.

Through the environmental affairs and tourism minister and various nongovernmental organisations, SA has invested R120m in the upgrading of infrastructure in Mapungubwe National Park and Van Schalkwyk has called for private sector involvement to ensure the project is a success.

Johan Verhoef, project co-ordinator of Mapungubwe National Park, says consolidation of the park is another challenge, with some private land still to be purchased.

The minister’s department has set aside R30m for buying up privately owned land in the middle of the park.

The park will comprise 1 300km² of land from Botswana, 960km² from Zimbabwe and 2 500km² from SA.

Yet another challenge is getting communities involved. While SA does not really have communities living in the area, Zimbabwe and Botswana do.

In Zimbabwe, the Tuli Circle Safari Area is used extensively for hunting by permit. Van Riet said most of the work in Zimbabwe would be done by the foundation since most donors were not willing to invest in the country.

The situation in Botswana is different. Botswana has tourist facilities on a number of privately run lodges that already attract about 20 000 visitors each year.

Mapungubwe National Park has added 100 beds to the region in the form of a rest camp with chalets, a tented camp, wilderness trails and various game-viewing facilities, hides and access roads to cater for a greater stream of tourists.

Van Schalkwyk says analysis shows the number of visitors to the park should reach 30 000 a year, which will be a major boost for the economy.

(Semeyi Zake, Business Day – 28 June 2006)

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