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About the Author

Johan Knols
Blogger, safari specialist, professional wildlife guide (Woerden, Netherlands)

Johan Knols is the owner of the planyoursafari blog. He studied tourism in the Netherlands and has been working in the African tourism industry for nearly 15 years. Starting as lodge manager in the Serengeti in Tanzania, he eventually owned his own mobile safari company in Botswana. Johan received his professional wildlife- guides licence in 1998 and was awarded the title of Honorary Wildlife Officer with the Botswana Wildlife and National Parks authority in 2005. During his time in Africa he has managed upmarket safari lodges and has done overland trips in the luxury and semi-luxury sector. At the moment he is a full-time blogger giving tips and advices on everything related to African safaris.

Post

Hope For Man And Beast: The Peace Parks Initiative

Published 07th April 2010 - 2 comments - 3897 views -

An introduction

It sounded like a crazy idea: Let’s link the main protected areas in Southern Africa together. And by means of wildlife corridors build a giant wildlife area that will create jobs, prosperity for communities and a safe haven for wildlife, with the main objective of creating a lasting peace in Africa’s southern regions. Africa’s share in global tourism would certainly increase in the process.

A better way in trying to achieve the Millennium Development Goals is hard to find in Africa and if it works well, it means a win-win situation for all involved. But the road is still long, hot and very dusty.

The idea comes from a South African called Anton Rupert who in 1990, together with Mozambique’s president Chissano, wanted to connect a few wildlife areas of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The idea for peace parks was not new, but it was the first time that people thought about it in Africa. It took unfortunately another six years before a feasibility study, that was sponsored by the World Bank, was released and the proverbial wheels for the construction of the park could slowly start to turn. The TFCA (Trans Frontier Conservation Areas) idea was born.

SADC

The idea of TFCA’s gained momentum and soon a lot more countries saw the potential of interlinked areas, the disappearance of the wildlife fences and what this all could mean for tourism, the local communities and conservation efforts. Eventually it was SADC (Southern African Development Community) countries that became the major drive force behind the initiative. At present there are about 40 conservation partners involved in the peace parks and does the concept have the backing of many charity organizations, donors and NGO’s. The Peace Parks Foundation currently acts as the central organ and involves itself with the logistics of getting these parks established.

Problems: small and big

Since then ten Peace Parks have been formed, although not all of them are in full operation as yet. In 2000 the first cross border park opened: the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which is a linkage between the previous South African ‘Kalahari Gemsbok National Park’ and the Botswana ‘Gemsbok National Park’.

That even the first park still had its infancy problems in 2006 became clear when I travelled in my open landcruiser from the Botswana side of the park to the South African side. Indeed, one only has to cross the dry riverbed of the Nossob River to enter South Africa and there is no grumpy harassing border official to be seen. No border formalities are required, which is a relief from a normal African border post crossing. There is no ‘hammering’ of stamps in passports. It almost feels creepy.

However, I was soon told that by a game warden that I was not allowed to drive with my open vehicle on the South African side as South Africa does not allow open vehicles in its national parks. Although I protested that I had come 300 kilometers to see the Nossob and that there is no sign on the Botswana side saying “no open vehicles allowed in South Africa”, did the park authorities want to send me back into Botswana where open vehicles are allowed. Needless to say that we all managed to make a plan and that I did see the South African side of the park anyway. But it just shows that there is more to creating a peace park by just taking away a fence, as, amongst a lot of other things, also the park rules and regulations have to get streamlined. Not an easy task in bureaucratic Africa.

But there are problems of a different magnitude erupting within the concept of the peace parks. Are the rural communities receiving a fair share of the revenue generated and how should it be shared between the different countries? How can one streamline conservation efforts if some countries have more money at their disposal than poor(er) countries? Should a country get an equal share of the revenue even if the infrastructure is poor and most tourist enter a park in a neighboring country. Which wildlife corridors have to be dismantled? Who controls poaching? These are all relevant question to ask and the answers to those questions are not always easy, not to mention very complex.

A report

Sanette Fereira of the Stellenbosch University in South Africa wrote a very interesting report about the Peace Parks. In the report she highlights the problems that the peace parks face and she does this by taking the ‘Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park’ as an example.

I think she makes a mistake in taking this park (p.304) as an example, as part of the park is situated in Zimbabwe and we all know how the situation is over there. Poaching is rife, people are desperate and the whole ( infra)structure of the country has basically collapsed. On the other hand it highlights the tremendous challenges that peace parks could have to deal with and the report could as such be used for the future development of other parks.

Staying positive

I am of the opinion that no great idea can be worked out without bringing great sacrifices. For the time being it looks like, although slow, those sacrifices are being made in Southern Africa. It would be great to see the EAU (East African Union) picking up the same ideas, as the Masai Mara and Serengeti ecosystems can not be omitted from this mayor change in Africa.

But before the peace parks can become self-sustained, a lot more money will have to be put into this great idea. If the intentions of all the member states remains the same, we could in the future travel to several African countries without having to show our passports once. How marvelous would that be!

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Comments

  • Aija Vanaga on 08th April 2010:

    This is a great article about tourism possibilities and options in Africa. Also about action that are taken and should be improved. Like it.


  • Johan Knols on 22nd April 2010:

    Hi Aija,

    Sorry to respond so late.
    I guess this is one of the positives that is happening in Africa. Good thing that the parks have the interests of people and wildlife on an even level.


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