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First wildlife release launches Simalaha

First wildlife release launches Simalaha

First wildlife release launches Simalaha
BELINDA SHAW

Someone once wrote that one of the great pleasures in life is doing something that everyone tells you is too big to achieve. In this case the challenge was for rural communities themselves to be the drivers of a conservation project that would link two chiefdoms from different cultures. They needed to share a vision that would restore the once-abundant wildlife populations back to the Simalaha Floodplains in western Zambia. The overriding aim was to ensure that the re-stocking of the floodplains would improve the lives of the communities living there.

This was the dream of the key players in the Inyambo and Sekute chiefdoms almost ten years ago, when the concept of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area was first proposed.

The elders of the communities on both sides of the Kasaya River remember when the Simalaha Floodplains teemed with wildlife. In the seventies, tourists used to take flights from Livingstone just to see the great herds of lechwe, waterbuck and buffalo on the floodplains. Those days are long gone.

In October 2013 impala and wildebeest were released back onto the floodplains. It was a benchmark moment for both chiefdoms and their communities. The event was witnessed by the Honourable Minister for Tourism and Arts, Sylvia T Masebo. She promised the communities that next year more wildlife species, such as giraffe and lechwe, will be released into the conservancy. The Hon Minister urged the two chiefdoms to invite the participation of the private sector.

It has been a long and winding road. Full backing of the Zambian government through the Zambia Wildlife Authority has been a major factor. Wise leadership of the two chiefdoms has been the driving force. Support by agencies such as the Peace Parks Foundation and their key donors enabled the dream to become reality.

In addition to the re-introduction of wildlife to the floodplains, rural farmers requested training in conservation agriculture. As has already been shown around the SiomaNgwezi National Park, over a thousand farmers neighbouring the park now practise conservation agriculture. This means that people produce more food on less land, while the communities see wildlife and increased food security as a major improvement in their lives.

Much work has yet to be done, but the release of the wildlife marks the start of the conservancy project on the ground. Given wise leadership, a sense of ownership by the community and support by the outside world, the dream will grow. The ‘green bits’ on the map will connect and the Simalaha Community Wildlife Conservancy will be at the heart of the Kaza TFCA.

More from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (December 2013)

More on Simalaha:
Profits beyond projection (Zambezi Traveller Issue 15, Dec 2013)
A leader’s passion reveals the future (Zambezi Traveller Issue 09, Jun 2012)
Chiefs commit to wildlife corridor (Zambezi Traveller Issue 07, Dec 2011)

Read more on the KAZA TFCA:
KAZA TFCA