Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday called for free trade in wildlife products to ensure a positive impact on national economies adding that an ivory trade ban has resulted in the country having stockpiles worth US$600 million.
He said funds that can be realised from the stockpiles can be used for sustainable conservation projects in the country for two decades.
The stocks have been piling up as the country, just like other African nations, cannot trade in its wildlife products due to a ban imposed by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).
Officially opening the inaugural African Union-United Nations Wildlife Economy Summit attended by Presidents Mogkweetsi Masisi (Botswana), Edgar Lungu (Zambia) and Hage Geingob (Namibia) who is also the Sadc chairperson in Victoria Falls, President Mnangagwa said dictatorial tendencies by Cites were negatively impacting on communities that live adjacent to national parks as they are not benefiting from wildlife in their areas.
“The conference is being held at a time when tourism in Zimbabwe is on a rebound as we are making concerted efforts to rejuvenate our tourism and hospitality industry so that it meaningfully contributes towards the attainment of our national vision to become a middle income economy by 2030.
“To this end, achieving peaceful human-wildlife co-existence and sound conservation principles are a top priority to my government. Zimbabwe subscribes to the founding principles of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) and we remain committed to the adherence of its protocols and rules. We are gravely concerned by the one-size-fits-all approach where banning of trade is creeping into Cites decision making process,” said President Mnangagwa.
“We call upon the institution to resist the temptation of being a policing institution and instead be a developmental one which promotes the intricate balance between conservation and sustainable utilisation of all wildlife resources.
“We continue to call for free trade in hunting products as these have a positive impact on the national and local economies of our countries. Currently Zimbabwe has about US$600 million worth of ivory and rhino horns stocks most of which is from natural attrition of those animals.
“If we are allowed to dispose of the same under agreed parameters the revenue derived would suffice to finance our operational conservation efforts for the next 20 years.”
President Mnangagwa said the Second Republic is promoting an integrated concept of conservancies which involve strong private sector and community participation.
He said the country encourages a world that embraces the principle of shared responsibility where natural resources are utilised in accordance with the principle of sustainability, and where accruing benefits of natural resources would be equally shared among communities to add value and improve livelihoods.
President Mnangagwa said the region should be guided by sustainable conservation going into COP18 to be held in Geneva, Switzerland in August.
Africa, with the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Kaza-TFCA) setting the pace, is seeking a common position on wildlife management.
Zimbabwe has around 84 000 elephants, a number the Government says is too big for the comfort of the natural environment and communities, especially where no community participation is embraced.
President Mnangagwa said there is a need to leverage wildlife resources to grow economies, eradicate poverty, achieve broad based empowerment and create decent jobs for citizens.
The conference which started on Sunday and ends today, is being held under the theme: “Communities for Conservation, Harnessing Conservation Tourism and Supporting Governments.”
President Mnangagwa said this resonates with renewed efforts to ensure that citizens benefit from sustainable management of natural resources and wildlife.
He said thriving wildlife resources have a tremendous potential to be instrumental in sustainable socio-economic development through associated wildlife oriented businesses such as eco-tourism, hunting and photographic safaris.
Among other efforts, Government is revitalising the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (Campfire) and developing conservancies for sustainable conservation.
However, the country, just like other countries, needs funding for wildlife programmes and protection of communities living adjacent to game parks, added the President.
“We need investors. As a Government, we will continue to ensure a conducive operating environment for wildlife management and conservation,” added President Mnangagwa. He said Government is committed to dealing with poaching through implementation of Sadc Protocol on Wildlife Conservation Law Enforcement and other policies.