A new and exciting concept popularly known as Transfrontier Conservation Areas is currently unfolding in Southern Africa. The Transfrontier Conservation Areas Initiative seeks to bring together established wildlife areas in the subcontinent in order to manage them as integrated units across international boundaries. The initiative is three fold involving the establishment, development and management of what on one hand is termed Transfrontier Parks (TFP) whilst on the other hand is referred to as Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs). Although the whole concept is popularly referred to as Transfrontier Conservation Areas, it is important to note that the definitions of these two are different.
Essentially a Transfrontier Park (TFP) is an area comprising two or more designated and or protected areas which border each other across international boundaries and whose primary focus is wildlife conservation. Authorities responsible for the respective areas formally agree to manage the area as one integrated unit according to a streamlined management plan and in accordance with a mutually agreed legal framework. Authorities also undertake to remove all man made barriers within the Transfrontier Park so that animals and to some extent people can move roam freely.
A Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) on the other hand refers to a cross-border region whose different component areas have different forms of conservation status such as national parks, private game reserves, communal natural resource management areas as well as hunting concession areas. Although fences, major highways, railway lines of other forms of barriers may separate the various parts, these areas nevertheless border each other and are jointly managed for long-term sustainable use of natural resources. As opposed to Transfrontier Parks, free movement of animals between the different parts that constitute a Transfrontier Conservation Area may not always be possible.
Objectives of TFCAs
IMPORTANCE OF TRANSFRONTIER CONSERVATION AREAS
Transfrontier Conservation areas act as a vehicle for conservation and sustainable use of biological and cultural resources. The main objective of TFCAs is to facilitate and promote regional peace, cooperation and socio-economic development of the Southern African sub-continent. It is an initiative that taps on the notion that nature knows no boundaries.
It is also important to note that the vision of cross-border collaboration gives effect to the stated objectives of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which aims at promoting synergy in regional initiatives for economic, social and conservation benefits over the subcontinent. Furthermore, TFCA initiatives form an integral part of NEPAD, whose ideas encompass Trans-boundary ecosystem management, integration of conservation with development for sustainability as well as the promotion of regional cooperation for peace and socio-economic development.
It is a fact that political boundaries very rarely respect ecological systems. Transfrontier Conservation initiatives thus strive to re-establish historical animal migration route and other ecosystems disrupted by fences and incompatible legislation.
The more natural ecosystems thus created would then be jointly managed according to harmonised wildlife management policies, promoting the return of larger and more resilient ecosystems with greater chances for long term sustainability while the participating countries retain sovereignty.
From a socio-economic perspective, Transfrontier Conservation initiatives create world-class eco-tourism destinations. In order for these to be effectively managed to optimise benefits for biodiversity conservation and ensure economic development of local communities, extensive Public-Private sector involvement is one of the key aspects for the success of the TFCA initiatives. It is envisaged that improving the lives of rural communities will in turn further contribute towards biodiversity conservation. It would demonstrate the economic and social advantages that can be achieved through partnerships in wildlife conservation.
In order to harmonise various management aspects of the adjoining conservation areas, guidelines are developed to address joint management issues. Efforts are also made to establish integrated tourism development plans for the areas.
ZIMBABWE’S TFCA INITIATIVES