KAZA Develops and Nurtures
The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area contains a
world class tourism product and provides the means to sustain the idea.
Deep in the heart of the SADC region, the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area
(KAZA TFCA) – a wildlife conservation area on a massive scale – is creating a unique platform for
conservation of the region’s natural resources.
Within the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, at the south-eastern tip of the KAZA TFCA, the
Trans-Kalahari Predator Project uses a remarkable approach to restore the relationship between
local residents and lions.
The project equips community members with a cellphone for communication, a bicycle for mobility
and a vuvuzela, a traditional African instrument, for making noise. These people, known as the
Long Shields, then ride out with guidance from satellite data to make noise, driving the lions away
from livestock owned by communities within Hwange. In doing so, they reduce conflicts between
the predators and the residents of the KAZA TFCA.
“When lions kill livestock, that impacts negatively on communities. When the local people see a
cow or a goat or a donkey, they see their bank accounts. They can sell a cow for a few hundred
dollars and send their child to school, “says Lovemore Sibanda, the Project Coordinator of the Long
Shields Lion Guardian Programme. “Our latest research suggests that retaliatory killing by farmers
is the biggest cause of lion decline in Hwange.”
“We often go to park management and alert them when there is a ‘problem animal’. We go out with
our vuvuzelas and they go out with their rifles, and because we coordinate our actions we find that
we are successful in chasing lions (away).”
As humans have pushed further into the migratory routes and dispersal areas of large mammals,
there has been a decline in those species. The number of lions in Africa decreased from an estimated
450,000 in the 1940s to barely more than 20,000 today. Between 3,000 and 4,000 of these live in
the KAZA TFCA.
“Wildlife contributes massively to the region’s socio-economic development,” says Dr Paul
Funston, the Senior Director of Lion and Cheetah Programmes for Panthera. “Lions are the number
one species that tourists want to see in Africa. In areas where you have a photographic tourism
industry, a lion could be worth about USD 100,000 over its lifetime.”
SADC Member States moved to protect these ecologically and economically important animals
through the conversation area. The heads of state of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and
Zimbabwe signed the KAZA Treaty in 2011. The treaty expanded and combined existing
conservation areas in each Member State, leading to the establishment of one of the world’s largest
With 36 national parks and game reserves
covering 520,000 square kilometres – almost
the size of Botswana – the KAZA TFCA today
is the world’s largest transfrontier conservation
area. It houses some of the region’s most
spectacular tourist attractions, ranging from
Victoria Falls at the Zambia-Zimbabwe
border to the Okavango Delta.
SADC’s support has also led to the
harmonisation of policy and cross-border
regulations as well as to the development of
infrastructure in the TFCA. Combined with the
introduction of the SADC Univisa, this allows
tourists to move more easily between the
The KAZA TFCA is rooted in the ideals of the SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law
Enforcement. The protocol commits Member States to “promote the conservation of shared wildlife
resources through the establishment of transfrontier conservation areas”.
The mandate of the KAZA TFCA Secretariat, which coordinates the partner countries of the TFCA,
compliments key goals enshrined in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP),
SADC’s development blueprint for the period until 2020.
“In 2015, a Master Integrated Development Plan (MIDP) was approved by the partner countries,”
says Dr Morris Mtsambiwa, the Executive Director of the KAZA TFCA Secretariat. “To ensure
integrated development at a regional level, it identified the following as key: natural resources
management, tourism development, livelihood development, integrated landuse planning and
This multi-tiered approach has created a unique opportunity in the KAZA area. “The emergenceof
community-based approaches to conservation means that rural communities are increasingly at the
centre of conservation and development programmes – making them a key role player in KAZA’s
success,” says Dr Mtsambiwa.
“There are a number of crossborder tourism products that are being developed in transfrontier
conservation areas,” says Deborah Kahatano, the Senior Programme Officer for Natural Resources
and Wildlife at the SADC Secretariat.
“I see conservation and tourism as two sides of the same coin,” she adds. “Our tourism in Southern
Africa is dependent on wildlife so without nature conservation, tourism would lose its most
prominent product. And without tourism, there would not be sufficient financial resources available
to fund the required conservation efforts.”
“As a region, we need to enhance these resources so we are able to share the benefits,” says
A key aspect of the TFCA approach is the protection of natural ecosystems, which transcend
“If I were to look at a map of Africa and draw circles around areas with major conservation
potential, I would draw fourteen circles, and twelve of them would be TFCAs. So it would
immediately be clear that learning to conserve across state boundaries is crucial to the survival of
high value species like elephants and lions in Africa,” says Dr Funston.
“KAZA is one of the great opportunities for research and conservation. It’s bigger, it’s more
complex, and if we can learn how to do it here, surely we can apply those lessons to other areas in
Dr Funston was recently involved in founding the KAZA Carnivore Conservation Coalition. The
coalition allows the KAZA Secretariat, and a network of NGOs, and researchers within KAZA to
share and harmonise data. In line with the spirit of SADC, it promotes collaboration and integration
of key stakeholders across borders for mutual benefit.
Long Shields coordinator Lovemore Sibanda is pursuing his doctorate through Oxford University
based on the conservation work of the Hwange Predator Project.
“Since the project has begun, we have seen a fifty percent decline in violence between communities
and lions,” says Sibanda. “There is hope that they will see that a lot of people get employed as
trackers, as waiters, as drivers, or guides themselves because of the lions.
“I myself am from around here, and right now I am a project manager because of the wildlife.
Lovemore Sibanda: Project Coordinator of the Long Shields Community Guardian Programme, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
A network of conservation NGOs operate in the KAZA TFCA
To protect and market the world class tourism products offered by the region, the SADC Protocol on the Development of Tourism seeks to realise the full potential of the SADC region’s tourism capabilities through sustainable, equitable development. The protocol, signed in 1998, aims to market the region as a single tourism destination and allow for the free movement of tourists in the region.