Sunday, September 16, 2007

Zambia needs to change how it manages wildlife and protected areas..

The Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), with one man at the helm with any experience and the qualifications to back it up, Dr Lewis Saiwana, is beyond repair, beyond reconstruction. That it has not even made the necessary pension contributions for its own staff is proof that it is time to call it a day. At HQ, ZAWA is a shambles, unable to pay consultants as promised, unable to administer the hunting industry and the quota system, unable to pay all the Community Resource Boards who are responsible for hiring village scouts, unable to answer a simple letter. And in the field, uncannily mirroring national expenditure over the last 20 years on agriculture, education, health and local councils, only between 7 – 15% or so of funds has been deployed for field operations. If the West Petauke Game Mangement Area (GMA) is anything to go by, local ZAWA officers operate ‘legalized’ bushmeat and elephant ivory poaching operations, assisted by village scouts who need little encouragement to poach given the fact that they are only paid occasionally.

Zambia is in the grip of an implacable criminal operation denuding customary areas and National Parks and National Forests of its wildlife. Yet like Zambia itself, ZAWA calls for a financial rescue package. This is not the panacea for the ills which beset ZAWA or the country.

It is time for Government to accept that the management of protected areas and its wildlife, and the wildlife of customary areas, can no longer be run by a highly centralized statutory body with a weak supervisory board. It is time to put all National Parks and Forests out to public private partnerships, and in customary areas, to place the ownership of wildlife in the hands of development trusts which incorporate customary leaders, local councils, the villagers and NGOs.

At a meeting the other day at the national archives, addressed by the Minister of Home Affairs and the Permanent Secretary of that Ministry, the latter said he will request the Minister to instruct all District Commissioners to pay a visit to the archives in order to study the District Notebooks kept by the British South Africa Company from 1902 – 1924, and by the administration of the Imperial Government until 1964, so that the DC’s may learn how to administer their districts. It is time that ZAWA’s senior personnel started looking into the old files of the Game Department in order to learn that its prime function was to protect people from the depredations of wildlife, and to earn money for the Native Authority from wildlife. And it is time that the district councils studied the files of the Native Authority to see how well Zambia’s districts were once managed. It was not a matter of money then, as it is not now.

1 comment:

Cho said...

Very good post!

The weaknesses that ZAWA faces are evident in most of other Zambian institutions including Government owned companies. The response tends to be more money thrown at them - the argument normally runs along the lines of 'we have weak capacity' and 'need more resources to do our job'. The real root as you have identified is that we "a highly centralized statutory bodies with weak supervisory structures". In other words - institutional problems.