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Park Debate/ One



By Henry Malumo and Mwala Kalaluka


Over 70% of people in the Sioma Ngwezi Game Management Area (GMA) have welcomed the African Parks investment on condition that the company concretises its pledge to develop the surrounding areas while the 30% of people consulted cited wrong procedure and lack of explanation as the reason for their refusal.


In a fact finding mission conducted by Rural Development Journalist Network members in the Western Province over the weekend revealed that some villagers and traditional leaders in Shangombo and Sesheke districts say they welcome African Parks Zambia Limited planned management of the Sioma Ngwezi National Park but on condition that the company fulfils its promised incentives to the surrounding communities.


Speaking in a series of interviews, a cross section of people talked to said they were in support of any initiative that would preserve wildlife in the park and restore it to its past status and be a source of wealth and employment creation, however, some of those interviewed expressed disappointment at the manner in which the investor was brought into the area.


Speaking on behalf of the newly formed Mufulani Community Resource Board (CRB), Board Chairman Matomola Mundia said, 'the people agree in principle with the African Parks' intervention though a lot of contentious issues have to be ironed out in the heads of agreement.


Mr.Mundia further said that the CRB had made submissions to government at a meeting held on January 12th 2004 and proposed that the 30% share given to the Barotse Royal Establishmnet(BRE) should be equally shared among the three namely the BRE and the two parks.


And Luyobe Village Headman Cripin Kaisa also said that he fully welcomes the African Parks intervention as this would boost the dwindling animal population and further create wealth for the nation.


Meanwhile most of the women talked to expressed ignorance about the AP project but welcome the project on the basis that the BRE had given consent to the initiative. Beatrice Sitali of Luyobe Village acknowledged African Parks' meetings with the surrounding communities.


However, Shikabenga Ward Councillor, George Mwenda argued that the procedure in which AP came was not fully exhausted as most communities were extensively consulted and educated about the project, and appealed to AP to avail the heads of agreement document to the communities and to further expedite the consultation process.


And nurse in-charge at Mutomena Rural Health Centre, Florence Imbuwa said that the coming of African parks to the area will address the lack of development and dilapidated infrastructure in Shangombo district.


Ms Imbuwa said that the Mutomena community have welcomed the project following after Afican Parks visited the area to explain the project to them and Henry Kalenga of Nombe Basic School challenged the company to support the surrounding communities whose poverty levels have worsened over the years.


And Induna Sinjembela said that AP should let the people have access to collect firewood and other necessities and grazing areas in the park because a few villages in his area were located in the park.


The Induna further revealed that the liberation wars in neighbouring countries have dealt a heavy blow on the number of animals in Sioma Ngwezi and added that there were still a lot of illegal fire arms in the villages.


Eric Mayaha of Kapokola village in Imusho area appreciated the project and said the aprehension was caused by lack of information from African Parks but that this has been done through community meetings.


At a meeting between African Parks and Sesheke West Community Resource Board, board Chairman Adonsi Mufalali said that people are now confused because the right procedure was not followed through the BRE structures in relation to the coming of the AP project.


Speaking at the same meeting AP Sioma-Ngwezi Project Coordinator Fynn Corry said the company was a conservationist organisation and its main aim was to manage park so as to transform them into high plus areas.


Corry told the gathering that Sioma-Ngewzi lies in the Okavango Upper-Zambezi Intergrated Tourism development area and has been identified by the international community as the main outlet for the elephants that are teeming in Hwange and Chobe National park.


The meeting which was attended by Induna Silumbu, Imbwae and Kapau with the community failed to resolve as to whether they wanted the project or not and thus it was deferred to another date.


However, Corry said that the project cannot take off without the full participation of the community but added that there are other areas around Africa that are willing to have the project if the people of Sioma Ngwezi rejected it.

Ends..H.M/ M.K/MONGU.