Zimbabwe has a reputation for innovation in wildlife conservation over the last decades, introducing, for example, the ground-breaking CAMPFIRE programme in the 1980s for community based conservation. This set a new approach for local community involvement in southern and east Africa, which is still being used to this day in Zimbabwe, and has served as a model elsewhere.
In March 2017 Zimbabwe again exhibited initiative as the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust (GCT) became operational. This new 20-year partnership model between Zimbabwe’s Protected Area and Wildlife Management Authority and Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), an international NGO based in Germany is a new joint venture for both organisations. This partnership for co-management of one of Zimbabwe’s flagship national parks is based on a strong relationship and trust built up over ten years of work.
The General Management Plan for the park, ratified by the Minister in 2012, will be the guiding document for the partnership as it lay out the vision and strategy for Gonarezhou’s development and management. This vision is captured in the park’s purpose:
“The Gonarezhou National Park will protect and conserve the wilderness, biodiversity, ecological processes, wild and scenic landscapes within the park boundary. The park’s exceptional resource values will be sustained for present and future generations, while supporting its role in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area and regional economic development. The culture and history of the Shangani people will be recognised as one of the key components of the park.”
Despite around $10 million of investment by FZS over the last 10 years, further funds are required to build financial sustainability and thus also to generate further benefits for local communities. Both PWMA and FZS regard the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust as the key tool to both provide effective and efficient management and taking on all management costs, but also to build this financial sustainability. The GCT will attract further financial investment by building investor and donor confidence and will also retain income from visitors to the park and the Malipati Safari Area. Future development efforts will focus on the three main pillars being community engagement, tourism development and ensuring the security in the area as part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA).
The Trust was officially launched on 16 September 2016 in Gonarezhou National Park, by Honarable Oppah Muchinguri, Minister of Environment, Water and Climate in the presence of 300 stakeholders and members of the local community. In March 2017, after a period of setting up systems and building the staff complement, the GCT became operational and is now ready to take the area into an exciting new era.