Success in any transfrontier conservation area requires a long-term, multi-faceted and complex approach and something that Peace Parks Foundation has always put at the forefront of any conservation project, is community. Working closely with not only the country governments, but also the local people allow for trust, understanding, and support to be gained. This community-led conservation approach is pivotal to ensuring successful conservation outcomes.

In this week’s episode of Conservation Conversations, Peace Parks Foundation’s CEO, Werner Myburgh, sits down with Nils Meyer, Senior Project Manager for KfW Development Bank and Brighton Kumchedwa, Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, to discuss the way forward for the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA).

So what is the Malawi-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, and why is it important?

Larger than Belgium, the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area is an incredibly biodiverse 3.2m hectare conservation area that sits on the international border contiguous to protected areas in Malawi and Zambia. It comprises two main components; Nyika-North Luangwa, a high-lying massif that is a critical water catchment area and place of refuge for Malawi’s rare fauna and flora and the wetlands and bushveld of Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve. The second component that makes up the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area is Kasungu-Lukusuzi, an area of importance for biodiversity conservation in the Central Zambezian Miombo Woodland Ecoregion.

Peace Parks Foundation recognises the significance of protecting these areas and has helped support the development of the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area since 2003. Over the past decade, Nyika National Park has seen extensive rewilding efforts take place, as well as the integration of joint operations and patrols, infrastructure development and law enforcement initiatives that allow the free movement of wildlife across international borders. 

All these efforts would not have been possible without funding from KfW Development Bank, the implementing organisation that acts on behalf of the German Government. Nils explains that the German Government has been supporting development in the SADC region for nearly twenty years, including the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, Kavango-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area and more recently, the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area. Amongst wanting to assist Peace Parks Foundation and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in Malawi with achieving biodiversity, restoration, conservation and development, KfW also have multiple other development objectives such as regional integration and ensuring peace and security.

For these objectives to become a reality, it remains crucial that a community-led conservation approach is taken. By engaging with communities who live in the buffer zones of these protected areas, significantly less human-wildlife conflict has been reported, the safety of livestock has improved, and an increase in agriculture as well as a shift in attitudes of the local people towards their natural environment. After chatting to some of Malawi’s park rangers during a recent visit, Mr Brighton Kumchedwa reported that the increased support, improved ranger housing and new uniforms have resulted in these important wildlife guardians’ empowerment and overall happiness.

Inclusive co-management agreements in protected cross-border protected wildernesses such as the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area are proving successful, with Peace Parks Foundation having been instrumental in implementing this newer management model. Its success thus far has given confidence to other donors and, above all, is helping others to become part of one of Africa’s most important conservation stories.