Sustainable Integrated Landscape Management in the Gonarezhou National Park and surrounding communities, Zimbabwe
Lead organization: Sustainable Agriculture Technology WILD Program Project
Partners: Gonarezhou Conservation Trust, Cesvi, Jamanda Community Conservancy, Manjinji Bosman’s Community Conservation and Tourism Partnership, WILD-Africa
Key thematic areas
“Triple Challenge” of balancing the need to (1) prevent further loss of biodiversity and sustain vital ecosystem services; (2) mitigate and adapt to climate change, while at the same time (3) sustainably supporting a growing human population.
The drought-prone environment and severe environmental degradation, together with few income-generating opportunities in and around protected areas, have been exacerbated by climate extremes and political instability. Poor natural resource management has led to severe land degradation, dissatisfaction among communities and deteriorating education, health, infrastructure, and social services. Disruption of wildlife corridors and encroachment on buffer areas around parks have weakened ecosystems, with an escalation in poaching to supply international wildlife trafficking networks, and eroding community safety.
To enhance social, economic, and ecological prosperity and resilience of communities and protected areas in the Zimbabwean portion of the Great-Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA), through:
- Specific Objective 1: Development of a sustainable and inclusive integrated Land Use and Natural Resource Management and Sustainable Development Framework for Gonarezhou National Park and neighbouring communities;
- Specific Objective 2: Establishment of a Community Environment and Development Fund (CEDF) to support the long-term implementation of the Integrated Land Use Plan.
The GLTFCA is a vast biosphere linking large national parks, water catchments and communities across Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa. The Project will incorporate Gonarezhou National Park and all adjacent communities making up the Zimbabwean portion of the GL-TFCA, with emphasis on the Sengwe Tchipise Corridor and Mahenye sectors, encompassing some 650,000 hectares. The area is extremely hot, semi-arid and characterized by low rainfall, and is prone to prolonged and recurrent drought. This makes traditional dryland cropping and communal livestock husbandry extremely marginal as primary land uses. Following a major drought in 1991–92, the majority of privately owned cattle ranches made the economic decision to switch to large-scale wildlife production for tourism, which has proved to be more ecologically and economically sustainable and resilient to drought.
The project links major National Parks across three countries, creating a migration corridor for animals, thereby releasing pressure on protected areas. Together with local communities, the approach is to boost eco-tourism and economic opportunities, addressing deeper socioeconomic problems while protecting the landscape. Long-term sustainability will be ensured through income-generating activities, such as construction of a solar-farm and implementation of REDD+ carbon sequestration programmes, and capacity building for improved and efficient land-use planning, environmental management, and governance.
Specific actions including updating and reviewing the General Management Plan of Gonarezhou National Park, which will be integrated with land use plans developed with and for neighbouring community areas. Community-level plans will also be co-developed for environmental management, and community-based organizations will be facilitated to help raise engagement, awareness, and capacity building within each of the five community sectors neighbouring Gonarezhou NP. A socio-economic and environmental baseline survey will be conducted, incorporating systems, equipment, and capacity building. A professional solar service provider will be contracted to construct a commercial-scale solar farm, and contracts will be negotiated for long-term energy sales. Payment for ecosystem services will be implemented, such as a REDD+ type carbon sequestration model, from establishment through to sale of carbon.
Dr. Chap Masterson
Technical Coordinator, WILD-Africa