Victoria Falls — The AU/UN wildlife economy summit currently taking place in Zimbabwe is refreshing and timely as Botswana wants to use wildlife economy to improve the livelihoods of communities co-existing with animals.
This was said by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi during a heads of state session June 24.
The summit, on driving Africa's new wildlife economy, aims at forging a new deal for tourism, rural communities and wildlife by 2030.
Dr Masisi said government wanted to maximize the benefits to communities because the people were first defenders and nurturers of the wildlife economy.
He said there was therefore need for deep understanding and commitment to include communities in decision making and considering them as stakeholders.
President Masisi said the summit was part of Botswana's journey in empowering rural communities that co-existed with wildlife.
Earlier, President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe had said the summit, an inaugural one for Africa, resonated with Kavango-Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area (KAZA) countries' renewed effort to ensure citizens benefitted from sustainable management of natural resources and wildlife.
Mr Mnangagwa expressed optimism that its deliberations would go a long way towards the realisation of Africa's conservation agenda.
He said thriving wildlife resources had a tremendous potential to be instrumental in sustainable socio-economic development through associated wildlife oriented businesses such as eco-tourism, hunting and photographic safaris.
The Zimbabwean president called on African countries to continue to utilise platforms such as the summit to explore innovative ways to leverage wildlife resources to grow their economies, eradicate poverty, achieve broad based empowerment and create decent jobs especially for women and youth.
In her welcome remarks, Zimbabwean Minister of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Ms Prisca Mupfumira said the summit would create a platform for African countries to share ideas on how to grow their sustainable wildlife economies and create an opportunity to unite stakeholders in the wildlife sector.
UN Environment Programme deputy executive director Ms Joyce Msuya said the summit had brought together African countries as they shared a common vision.
Although Africa had many nations, their story was one, she said.
Ms Msuya said natural resources could survive if people who lived with them became stewards.
She said the summit outcomes would better inform the UN secretary general in preparation for the assembly in September.
AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Ambassador Josefa Sacko said for local communities to contribute to conservation of wildlife resources, they needed to be empowered.
She called for the regulation of some species as they were faced with extinction.
The two-day summit is themed "Communities for Conservation, Harnessing Conservation Tourism and Supporting Governments".
Source : BOPA