Malawi, Zambia Draft Trans-Border Conservation Treaty

By Charles Mkoka

LILONGWE, Malawi, May 18, 2005 (ENS) - Malawi and Zambia have drafted a treaty to guide the conservation of wildlife in protected areas close to their shared border. Environmental analysts say the move will bring economic benefits by boosting eco-tourism in both countries.

"Malawi and Zambia are one people separated by a border," said Leonard Sefu, Malawi's director of parks and wildlife. "However the resource we manage does not recognize that border."

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Zebras in Nyika Plateau National Park, Zambia (Photo courtesy Zambia National Tourist Board)
"This calls for joint management, in terms of anti-poaching, disease control research and extension, since wildlife will move at will from Malawi's Nyika and Kasungu national parks into other protected areas across the border," he said.

Sefu was addressing the fifth bilateral Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (TFCA) technical committee meeting, held at Hippo View Lodge, adjacent to Liwonde National Park in Machinga district in Southern Malawi.

"TFCAs are important in the unification and co-existence of our border communities," said Sefu. "They will improve the social fabric and increase economic and rural development."

High on the meeting's agenda were policy and legislation, joint management issues, defense and security, and tourism.

Participants including legal experts, veterinarians, and immigration, customs and forestry officials discussed actions to take on each issue, who should be responsible and time frames for implementation.

The discussions led to the drafting of the Treaty on the Development of Malawi-Zambia Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas.

According to the treaty, the two nations will promote bilateral management of ecological and cultural resources by setting up TFCAs and promoting international partnerships between government agencies and other stakeholders.

They aim to enhance ecosystem integrity by harmonizing wildlife management procedures and removing barriers that inhibit natural movement of wildlife.

The two countries pledge to develop strategies to ensure that local communities can participate in, and tangibly benefit from, the management and sustainable use of natural resources that occur within the TFCA.

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Warning sign on the Malawi side of the border (Photo credit unknown)
They will also promote cross border tourism as a means of fostering regional socio-economic development.

The bilateral committee first met in the Zambian capital Lusaka in 2003, when a road map for collaboration was agreed.

Among the actions identified then as priorities were stakeholder consultations, quarterly bilateral meetings and creating national TFCA technical committees.

Representing the Zambian government at the fifth bilateral meeting, Hapenga Kabeta, director of the Zambian Wildlife Authority, said the stakeholder consultation was the most challenging process, particularly on the Zambian side, possibly because the TFCA is a new concept. But he helped to identify the concerns of local communities such as cross border trade and other cultural exchange initiatives, since the two countries share the same traditional values.

Kabeta said that each time the bilateral committee had been convened, its participants had helped to cultivate and strengthen "our personal and brotherly relationship."

"One notable milestone was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for Malawi and Zambia TFCA on August 13, 2004 at Chilinda Camp in Nyika National Park. This signing of the memorandum was equivalent to an engagement party which should lead to a wedding ceremony which should mark the launch of a life long partnership in marriage," said Kabeta, drawing applause from the participants.

Meanwhile, according to a plan for the Malawi Department of Parks and Wildlife and Zambian Wildlife Authority prepared by the Peace Parks Foundation, an initial US$180,000 has been provided to facilitate the development of the overall Malawi/Zambia TFCA project.

The protected areas shared by the two countries include Malawi Nyika/Zambia Nyika - a national park on each side of the border - Vwaza Marsh game park/Lundazi Forest Reserve, and Kasungu/Lukusudzi national park.

The concept of cross border protected area management is formulated in the Southern African Development Community's Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement. Both Malawi and Zambia are signatories to this protocol.

The two countries are former members of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland under the British protectorate and share common traditional and cultural values.