By Judith Sibanda
ENVIRONMENT, Tourism and Hospitality industry minister Prisca Mupfumira has called on SADC countries in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) to prioritise and ensure that communities benefit from the wildlife within the region in order to alleviate poverty.
In her opening remarks, Thursday, at the KAZA TFCA inter ministerial meeting held in Victoria Falls Minister Mupfumira said the meeting gave member states an opportunity to discuss, agree on the way forward and provide policy guidance on matters relating to the region hence her appeal for communities’ emancipation and benefaction.
“I believe the KAZA TFCA main goal which is “to collaborate in conservation of our natural resources and promote tourism whilst boosting the socio-economic environment for our local communities”, is achievable and a noble cause,” she reminded the delegates.
“The focus of our efforts should be to transform the lives of the communities throughout the KAZA landscape, contribute to the socio-economic development of our nations as well as improve the conservation status of flora and fauna of the TFCA.”
In order to achieve community transformation and conservation, Minister Mupfumira advised that ministries needed to engage and work with different sectors, directly and indirectly involved to promote wildlife based tourism.
“This dream can only be achieved through collaborative efforts with all stakeholders that include the private sector, civil society, local communities, development partners, and academia and research institutions among others. As it stands KAZA TFCA is moving in the right direction, having forged a number of partnerships for development…”
“Honourable Ministers, you all appreciate the current positive contributions tourism is making to our economies, in terms of foreign currency inflows, employment creation and contribution to our GDPs.
We need therefore to thrive not just to sustain such contributions at current levels, but to increase the same… I note that tourism is largely a low hanging fruit, thus our thrust should be two pronged, that is grow both international arrivals and domestic tourism so that the locals may also enjoy their God-given resources.
“All this can only happen when we continue to look after our pristine wildlife and environment.”
She said the ongoing meeting should reflect on all the progress that have been recorded to date and map the way forward on any challenges concerning the implementation and development of the KAZA TFCA.
In closing, the minister said collaborative efforts in conserving the pristine wildlife and environment has seen two member states within the KAZA region receiving internationally recognised awards where Namibia received the Best Safari and Wildlife Destination award while Zimbabwe received the Sustainable Destination of the Year 2019 award at ITB Berlin among others.
Mupfumira also expressed her gratitude to all countries that had offered assistance to the four Cyclone Idai hit countries.
Also present were senior government officials, parastatal heads from the KAZA Partner countries, SADC Secretariat representatives and Matabeleland resident minister Richard Moyo.