A Peace Park is born

Another southern African transfrontier park was sealed this July in Blantyre, when the treaty to establish the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) was signed. The honours were done by the presidents of the two countries, Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika (President of the Republic of Malawi) and Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu (President of the Republic of Zambia) on July 7 at Sanjika Palace.

The TFCA measures 31 792 km² and is centred around the Nyika Plateau. It also includes the North Luangwa National Park, while the southern component consists of Kasungu and Lukusuzi national parks.

The presidents welcomed the establishment of the TFCA as a concrete example of the long and close relations that exist between their two countries, as well as of their focus on conservation, economic development, cultural integration and community development. In signing the treaty, the partner states undertook to uphold the right to utilise natural resources in a responsible manner so as to safeguard the welfare and continued existence of these for posterity.

Joaquim Chissano, former president of the Republic of Mozambique and vice-chairman of Peace Parks Foundation, which facilitated the process, made use of the opportunity to warmly congratulate Malawi and Zambia for their spirit of regional development and cooperation, punted as key to Africa’s growth and stability.

It has been a long road to get to this point, and a memorandum of understanding towards the TFCA’s establishment was already signed on August 13, 2004.

In 2011, the World Bank approved a Global Environmental Facility trust grant of $4.82 million for the cross-border management of biodiversity in the TFCA. In addition, co-financing commitments were secured from the Norwegian Embassy in Malawi, the governments of Malawi and Zambia, and Peace Parks Foundation for a total amount of $11.09 million over the next five years. Vehicles and equipment were procured and extensive maintenance undertaken on roads, entrance gates and staff houses and offices, while new staff houses were constructed. The German Federal Ministry of Cooperation and Development has committed $24.2 million to SADC, through KfW, to develop infrastructure in the TFCA.

The signing of the treaty was preceded by the signing of the TFCA’s Integrated Management Development Framework (IMDF) by Malawi’s Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture, Kondwani Nankhumwa and Zambia’s Minister of Tourism and Arts, Jean Kapata. The IMDF aligns the planning and development of the different tiers of government with those of the private sector and communities, and will inform the development strategy of the TFCA.

There is much to work with. The Nyika Plateau is a high, undulating montane grassland plateau that rises over 2 000 metres above the bushveld and wetlands of the Vwaza Marsh. The vegetation above 1 800 metres is predominantly montane grassland, interspersed with evergreen forest. These high-lying areas are often shrouded in mist, giving them a unique appeal. In summer a multitude of wild flowers and orchids burst forth in the highlands – a sight unlike any seen in most other game parks. North Luangwa National Park boasts the big five, while Kasungu and Lukusuzi national parks represent the last and largest contiguous area of undisturbed, relatively pristine miombo woodland of the Central African Plateau.

There is hope that the TFCA will become an important component in the tourism development of the two countries, which may eventually see a tourism route linking north and South Luangwa, through Nyika to Lake Malawi. Another initiative, which has already borne fruit, is a joint law enforcement project operating as a single unit across international borders to combat poaching. It has resulted in an increase in wildlife numbers.