GOVERNMENT has set aside US$100 000 to establish a tourism camping site in Tsholotsho to be run by communities living adjacent to the Hwange National Park.
The move is aimed at empowering the community by ensuring that they directly benefit from the rich wildlife resource and help reduce human-wildlife conflict. Tsholotsho is one of the districts with a high prevalence of human-wildlife conflict. Over the years incidents of poaching have been rampant as villagers complain of not benefiting from the wildlife heritage.
This has prompted Government to initiate community empowerment efforts through the establishment of Sihume Camp under Chief Siphoso’s Vukuzenzele area, situated at the game park’s border with Tsholotsho, to involve villagers in wildlife conservation.
This means Ward 1 villagers, where the camp is located, will now be full time tour operators with spill over benefits to Wards three, four and seven, which are also on the border with the national park.
Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s Makona Camp, situated adjacent to Sihume Camp, will also be upgraded with construction of 30 staff quarters for rangers already underway.
Construction work is yet to start at Sihume Camp.
The project, which is one of Government’s 100 Day cycle programmes, is a partnership with private players including the community, Tsholotsho Rural District Council, the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, tourism industry players and Zimparks, which is the implementing partner with Guangzhou Chimelong and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
The new project is aimed at enhancing synergies between wildlife conservation, tourism development, and sustainable livelihoods in protected areas. The community will now be involved in marketing Zimbabwe and luring tourists to their camp, being assisted by Zimparks for tour activities.
Presidential Affairs Minister responsible for Implementation and Monitoring of Government Programmes, Dr Joram Gumbo, visited the project site on Wednesday, about 100km from Hwange Main Camp and nearly 200km from Tsholotsho centre, to assess progress. It emerged that US$39 000 of the money was released for the first phase. Dr Gumbo said the project has potential to steer the country’s economy towards an upper middle income status by 2030.
“I’m here to familiarise with projects that are in the 100-day cycle and key to the Second Republic. I’m impressed because the community will benefit from tourists who will come and stay at the camp,” he said. “People living adjacent to game parks have been losing their livestock, crops and lives to wildlife. So, getting them involved will discourage poaching.”
Dr Gumbo said the project would be done in phases with the first stage being covered in the 100-day cycle that closed on 15 September. The community expressed concern about the snail’s pace of the project to which Dr Gumbo said Treasury would release the balance so that it is completed on time.
“We’re aware that because of challenges like change of currency and prices, the project has not moved. But I’m happy so far with the first phase. We will talk to the Ministry of Finance to make sure the balance is released because we believe that if locals benefit from their resources that will lead to the attainment of vision 2030,” said the Minister.
The community will run the camp fully with assistance from Zimparks as a technical partner. Dr Gumbo said Government would also mobilise funds to tar the road from Phumula Mission in Tsholotsho for easy access to the site. The villagers have formed a committee to run the affairs of the camp. Committee chair, Mrs Saziso Mzacana, said the community would be empowered as it desperately needs a secondary school, roads, water and jobs.
“We have been concerned that nothing had happened but now we are happy because we will benefit from wildlife and also get compensated for the loss we have endured over the years. We now know that we have to conserve wildlife,” she said. — @ncubeleon.