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Transfrontier (Peace) Parks

Author: Prof Willem van Riet ~ Peace Parks Foundation

( Article Type: Explanation )

The Peace Parks Foundation, a Section 21 company not for gain, was started in February 1997 to facilitate the establishment of transfrontier conservation areas, which are also commonly referred to as peace parks. Transfrontier conservation is a vehicle for sustainable development. This is because the principles underpinning the peace parks initiative are fundamentally correct, as they address poverty, which is caused by massive unemployment and a chronic lack of skills and entrepreneurial training. This often leaves poor people living in or adjacent to conservation areas with very few alternatives but to exhaust the very resource base on which their and our survival depends.

The economic potential of peace parks is the mechanism for people to help themselves, by utilising natural resources to their benefit without destroying biodiversity. Only if we ensure sustainable economic growth, based on ecotourism, which is the fastest growing industry in the world, will the people of Africa and elsewhere have reason to protect their natural assets. A transfrontier conservation area (TFCA), or peace park, usually refers to a cross-border region where the conservation status of the various component areas differs. These areas may include private game reserves, communal natural resource management areas and even hunting concession areas. Fences, major highways, railway lines or other barriers may also separate the various parts. However, they nevertheless border on one another and are managed for long-term sustainable use of natural resources, even though the free movement of animals amongst the various parts may not be possible. The SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement defines a TFCA as “the area or component of a large ecological region that straddles the boundaries of two or more countries, encompassing one or more protected areas as well as multiple resource use areas.” A transfrontier park is established when the authorities who are responsible for areas where the primary focus is the conservation of wildlife and which border on one another across international boundaries, formally agree to manage those areas as one integrated unit according to a joint management plan.

These authorities also undertake to remove all human barriers within the Transfrontier Park so that animals can roam freely. The purpose of these parks is to employ conservation as a land-use option to the benefit of local people. At the outset, six TFCAs were identified. Southern Africa’s first peace park, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, was formally opened on 12 May 2000 by the presidents of Botswana and South Africa. On 9 December 2002 the three heads of state of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe signed an international treaty to establish the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and on 1 August 2003, a treaty on the establishment of the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park was signed in Windhoek by the presidents of Namibia and South Africa.

Agreements to develop further transfrontier conservation areas in southern Africa are under way, with some in the final stages of development.
These successes have resulted in the Ministers for Tourism of the SADC countries, via the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA), commissioning a detailed feasibility study, funded by the Development Bank of Southern Africa and Peace Parks Foundation, and managed by the latter. The study involves consultations with governments regarding potential TFCAs in their countries, thereby clearly defining possible locations as well as the potential for economic growth and the conservation of biodiversity.
It also gives a clear indication of the potential impact future TFCAs will have on the economy and biodiversity of the region as a whole, where they could be established and a cost estimate of doing so. In all, 16 further potential TFCAs have been identified. Should this transpire, it will bring the total area of TFCAs in the SADC to about 120 million hectares, which is roughly the size of France, Germany and Italy combined. They include various major biomes and eco-regions, which means an important contribution to biodiversity. The diversity of wildlife in these areas will attract a considerable increase in the number of tourists to these areas and form the basis for further sustainable economic development.