The concept of peace parks is a global one, tracing back to the 1930s when Canada and the United States of America created the ambitious Waterton Glacier International Peace Park. The idea was and remains compelling: an opportunity to think beyond political boundaries to accommodate gene pools, water flow, wildlife movement and propagation of plant species; an opportunity to unlock regional economic development, to share the conservation of biodiversity and to promote regional peace and stability by demonstrating the benefits of cooperation.
By 1988, the idea had taken root within the World Conservation Union. Initially, they identified 70 potential transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs) in 65 countries around the world, but today the figure stands at 223 TFCAs in 113 countries. It was in Africa, however, the peace parks concept truly sparked into life. The brave dream of contiguous TFCAs in Southern Africa began its realisation in the mid-1990s in the discussions of visionary leaders as they contemplated a new era of regional peace, democracy and development.
In the years since, it has been the political will of leaders in Southern Africa, and the efforts of an organisation set up to champion the peace parks concept, that has seen the vision of peace parks taking shape on the subcontinent. Spearheaded by Dr Anton Rupert, and with former President Nelson Mandela and HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands as co-founding patrons, Peace Parks Foundation was founded on 1 February 1997 with the following vision and mission:
Peace Parks Foundation envisages the establishment of a network of protected areas that links ecosystems across international borders.
Peace Parks Foundation facilitates the establishment of transfrontier conservation areas (peace parks) and develops human resources, thereby supporting sustainable economic development, the conservation of biodiversity and regional peace and stability.
One of the objectives of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement of 1999 is to ‘promote the conservation of shared wildlife resources through the establishment of transfrontier conservation areas.’
The establishment of each peace park is complex and far-reaching, involving many stakeholders. The typical process involves distinct phases of activity, which can take many years to achieve. Peace Parks Foundation facilitates each of the development phases, which includes engendering political support, promoting joint planning and management structures, boosting good governance and capacity building, optimising the delivery pipeline to ensure that a 100 percent of donor funding finds its way to projects on the ground, and supporting the development of a favourable environment for public/private partnerships.
Peace Parks Foundation is focused on delivering fully functioning peace parks that are both ecologically intact and able to create sustainable regional benefit flows. Measurable strategies have been put in place to achieve this. Interventions are based on four fundamental pillars; securing space, training wildlife managers, training tourism managers and improving accessibility. At a macro level, the organisation is often contracted by governments and aid agencies to facilitate the development planning process for a peace park. This process is extremely inclusive, embracing local communities, government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector.
At nearly 900 000 km², Southern Africa’s peace parks today incorporate over half of the declared conservation estate in the region. This is larger than France and the United Kingdom combined:
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Botswana, South Africa)
Agreement signed April 1999
Opened 12 May 2000
Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation and Resource Area (Mozambique, South Africa,Swaziland)
Five protocols signed – 22 June 2000
Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe)
MoU signed – 10 November 2000
Treaty signed – 9 December 2002
Chimanimani TFCA (Mozambique, Zimbabwe) Peace Parks Foundation not currently involved
MoU signed – 8 June 2001
Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation and Development Area (Lesotho, South Africa)
MoU signed – 11 June 2001
Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park (Namibia, South Africa)
MoU signed – 17 August 2001
Treaty signed – 1 August 2003
Iona – Skeleton Coast TFCA (Angola, Namibia) Peace Parks Foundation not currently involved
MoU signed – 1 August 2003
Malawi/Zambia TFCAs (Malawi, Zambia)
MoU signed – 13 August 2004
Greater Mapungubwe TFCA (Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe)
MoU signed – 22 June 2006
Kavango Zambezi (KAZA) TFCA (Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
MoU signed – 7 December 2006
Treaty signed – 18 August 2011
Liuwa Plains-Mussuma (Angola/Zambia)
Lower Zambezi-Mana Pools TFCA (Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Niassa-Selous TFCA (Mozambique, Tanzania) Peace Parks Foundation not currently involved
Mnazi Bay-Quirimbas Marine TFCA (Mozambique/Tanzania) Peace Parks Foundation not currently involved
In order to engender the sustainability of the parks, Peace Parks Foundation supports training. The South African College for Tourism was established in 2001 by the late Dr Anton Rupert, then chairperson of Peace Parks Foundation. Every year, the college trains 90 young women from impoverished backgrounds on a year-long course that focuses exclusively on developing skills in the hospitality service. Thus equipped, the students are able to return home and find employment within the tourism infrastructure supported by TFCAs. To date, 612 young women have graduated, all sponsored by the Foundation and the college’s donors. Since 2010, the college also annually trains 16 trackers at its Tracker Academy with the aim of preserving the age-old traditional knowledge and skill of tracking.
Since its inception in 1997, the Southern African Wildlife College has trained more than 6 000 students from across Africa in the essential skills of managing parks and conservation areas. Peace Parks Foundation has been supporting training at the college since inception by annually awarding bursaries to students all over Southern Africa and in 2004 took over the responsibility of managing the College and covering any operational shortfalls. The college programme covers the full spectrum of skills needed for sustaining and rehabilitating wildlife areas, including community-based natural resource management, biodiversity management, resource economics, catchment management, land-use planning, GIS and ecotourism, as well as a range of practical skills such as four-wheel drive vehicle maintenance, managing veld fires and anti-poaching training. Many of its graduates have gone on to occupy senior positions in some of the region’s most prominent wildlife areas.
To protect Southern Africa’s biggest competitive advantage in tourism, its wildlife, development partners – Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, the University of Pretoria and Peace Parks Foundation – reopened the refurbished Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station near the western border of the Kruger National Park in August 2010. The research station provides a dedicated platform for local and international researchers to conduct experimental work on animal diseases and related issues at the transfrontier interface between people, livestock and wildlife.
For more about the Peace Parks Foundation, refer to www.peaceparks.org.