Zambia: Norwegians to Help Curb Increased Poaching in South Luangwa

ZAMBIA is endowed with a rich and diversity of natural resources that provides an inimitable scenic view that offers a unique experience to both local and foreign tourists.

Among the abundant natural resources the country has been blessed with, the wildlife plays an important role in contributing to the growth of the tourism sector.

The tourism sector has been singled as one of the important drivers of the growth of the Zambian economy.

Nowadays the country boasts of a total of 20 national parks and 34 Game management areas dotted across the country covering over 22.4 million hectares.

In addition to national parks, a number of areas in Zambia have been declared as national heritage sites or monuments.

These areas include 145 geographical sites and 70 geomorphological heritage sites.

Further, more the country is endowed with 73 tribes that provide a rich culture diversity that offers an annual complement of over 25 traditional ceremonies.

In an effort to create more national parks, The Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) recently converted forest number 26 and 56 in Chilenje south in Lusaka to create another fenced national park to be called Lusaka national park.

The South Luangwa nation park popularly known as "Mfuwe or Malambo" among the locals is one of the largest national parks in Africa that offers tourists a distinctive experience of Zambia as "the real wild Africa with its richest assorted types of game animals.

The South Luangwa national parks receives more that 30,000 tourists every year that come to see the park's diverse fauna and the over 100 animal species with more than 450 bird species.

But these endangering wild species are on the verge of extinction due to the illegal human activities.

When the late politician and musician Lazarous Tembo coined the Kunda song "achibinda Takuyanwo- panyama" in the late 1970s, little did he know that the lyrics in the songs that depicted a typical lifestyle of the people living in the valley would evoke the spirits of many people.

The musician-cum-politician might be long dead but his music lingers on in the minds of may Zambians who treasure wild life.

Up this day his song is still regarded as an ethnic anthem among the Kunda speaking people, who are arguably can claim to be the indigenous people of the South Luangwa national park.

In his famous but controversial song entitled "achibinda Takuyanwo," the versatile musical artist boastfully gives a picture of the old life style of the people in the valley.

In the song, the late musician boastfully and smugly exposed that lifestyle of the people in the valley whom he said feasts on a variety of wild animals on a daily basis because of their proximity to the wild animal sanctuary.

Little, did he know that his satirical musical lyric would land many Kundas including some of their traditional rulers in trouble with the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), with their illegal killing of the government trophies in the valley.

ZAWA Public Relations officer Wilfred Moonga admitted that a number of wild animals are threatened with extinction due to poaching.

Mr Moonga explained that in the 1970s, Zambia had a total of 250, 000 elephants looming in its national parks across the country.

"As a result of the drastic demands for Ivory in the far east, the number of elephants has dwindled from the 250,000 in the 1970s to about 17, 000 in 1989.

During the same year, the number of Rhinos was officially declared extinct in Zambia due to poaching.

According to the ZAWA survey conducted in 2008, the country had a total of 28,000 in its national parks across the country.

Mr Moonga also disclosed that ZAWA has completed the re-stocking of 20 Rhinos from South Africa into one of the national parks in Zambia.

"The re-stocking of 20 Rhinos in the national parks programme that started in 2003 is being supported by the Zoological Frankfurt of Germany and has been completed" Said Mr Moonga.

In an effort to curb the escalating poaching levels in the South Luangwa national park, which is slowly leading to the depleting of the wild species, the Zambian government partnered with the Royal Government of Norway under a bilateral agreement to conserve wildlife in the South Luangwa national park.

The multi million US dollars initiative was launched by the first republican President Kenneth Kaunda on May 7th 1986.

Initially, the project was called Luangwa Integrated Rural Development Programme (LIRDP), before it changed its name to South Luangwa Area management Unit (SLAMU).

The project area covered over 25,000 Km2 in eastern part of Zambia comprising the South Luangwa National Park and its adjacent Game Management Areas (GMAs), namely Sandwe, Lupande.

The projects that run over a period of 27 years phased out last year.

Norwegian Ambassador to Zambia, Arve Ofstad explains that the focus of the projects has been to improve the livelihood of the communities around the park.

The aim of the projects was to alleviate social economic deprivation of the local communities which was seen as the primary cause of wildlife resources depletion in the Luangwa valley.

"The Norwegian Government is happy to be associated with the successful and historic conservation wild life in the South Luangwa National Parks, Zambians and the Norwegian Government deserve thanks for their dedication effort to the plan and integrated programmes for wildlife management and community development" he said.

The Norwegian Ambassador says his government has spent over K200 Billion over the period on 27 years to successfully run the SLUM project in the Luangwa valley.

In addition to funding the LIRDP and the SLUM projects, separate funds were provided for the rehabilitation of the road between Chipata and Mfuwe, the building of a new SLUM headquarters in Mfuwe including funding various consultancies on the projects.

Apart from the SLUM, The Norwegian government is also the main funding partners to Community Market for Conservation (COMACO) which was established in 2003.

COMACO is a non-profit making organization established to assist small scale farmers in the game management areas to improve their livelihood through conservation farming and marketing their agriculture products.

Even though there is no formal agreement of cooperation between COMACO and SLUM, their cooperation is a part securing wildlife conservation in the park.

Since its inception, COMACO has managed to help many people in the valley by providing a stable income from sustainable farming, thereby reducing escalating levels of poaching in the national park including other surrounding Game Management areas.

The organization has helped many people to be sensitized on the dangers of the indiscriminate cutting down of trees in the forestry which they were burning for charcoal.

The organization has also managed to transform a total of 1,330 illegal hunters to full time farmers.

With the assistance of the organization, a total 1,991 firearms mostly muzzle loading guns and 77,508 snares that were being used in the illegal killing of wildlife had been surrendered to ZAWA.

On September 9 th the Norwegian Government officially handed over all the equipement that were used in the SLUM Project in South Luangwa national park.

Speaking at the colourful ceremony held at Mushroom Lodge that was also attended by all the six Kunda chiefs, Tourism and Arts deputy minister Keith Mukata commended the Norwegian government for the successful story of conserving wild life in the South Luangwa National park.

The deputy minister said the government's long-term vision for the tourism sector is "To ensure that Zambia becomes a major tourist destination of choice with unique features, which contributes to sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction".he said.

Chief Jumbe called for the diversification in the tourism sector.

The traditional ruler appealed to the government to consider diversifying the tourism sectors in order to create more jobs for the local community.

Luangwa Safaris Association chairperson Adrian Coley also appealed to the government to quickly address the human -animal conflict in the South Lungwa national park which was on the increase.

Despite the tourism sector playing a major role in the stimulating of national economic growth, the sector has continued to face a number of challenges over the years.

Between 1998 and 2003, the average number of rooms in the hospitality industry stood at 4,822 with over 8,000 beds.

The above statistic shows that the room capacity in the country has remained stagnant over a period of time.

Above that, the tourism infrastructures have largely remained under-developed with most roads being impassable more especially during the rainy season.

There is need for more infrastructure development in the tourism sector to meet the ever increasing number of tourists visiting the country in order to satisfy their demands.

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