Harare — ZIMBABWE, Angola, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia have agreed to establish a new Transfrontier Conservation and Tourism project in the Okavango River in Namibia and the Zambezi Basin in Zimbabwe in a move that is expected to improve wildlife management and conservation in the region.
Tourism ministers from the five Sadc countries will meet in Victoria Falls on Thursday, December 7, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for the project.
The transfrontier conservation project will cover an estimated 300 square kilometres of savanna, woodlands, rivers and wetlands in the five countries. The project includes such well-known natural features and tourist attractions such as the Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls and the Kafue wetland in Zambia.
Thirty-six national parks and game reserves as well as a considerable number of conservancies, hunting concessions and game management areas are expected to be part of the grant project. A secretariat that would operate on a rotational basis among the five countries would be established to run the project.
Environment and Tourism Minister Mr Francis Nhema yesterday said the MOU would make it easier to manage the ecology of the region.
"This agreement will also make it possible for the five countries to strengthen their management programmes such as wildlife crime prevention, law enforcement or fire management. Collaborative management planning towards harmonised land use, including a joint inventory of resources, monitoring and research will also be considerably strengthened," Mr Nhema told reporters in Harare.
Mr Nhema said the agreement would mark the beginning of a new era for tourism development, which will recognise no boundary, thus allowing movement of both tourists and wildlife from one country to another.
Under the agreement, Mr Nhema said, visas would be scrapped by September 2008 for people wishing to visit the area. Mr Nhema said the memorandum, together with the Sadc Protocol on Development Tourism, would enhance the development of cross-border eco-tourism and also foster good working relations among member states.