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AHEAD initiative in the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA)


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AHEAD (Animal & Human Health for the Environment And Development) is focused on problems facing biodiversity conservation and development in large, transboundary landscapes from the critically important perspective of the linkages among wildlife health, domestic animal health, and human health and livelihoods. The area of focus is one of southern Africa’s major transfrontier conservation areas – the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), at the verge of becoming perhaps the world’s largest conservation-oriented landscape. The development of TFCAs to further the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable development through the harmonization of transboundary natural resource management is a priority for SADC (the Southern African Development Community) and the five countries that encompass the KAZA TFCA: Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The importance of this TFCA to the region was evidenced by the signing of an international MoU to establish the KAZA TFCA by the five nations in 2006. Agreement has been reached on creating a transfrontier area spanning approximately 400,000 km² (more than 1.5 times the size of Great Britain) and encompassing more than 60 national parks, game reserves, community conservancies and game management areas. The area will include, for example, the Caprivi Strip, Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta (the largest Ramsar site in the world) and the Victoria Falls (World Heritage Site).

The KAZA TFCA also contains the largest contiguous population of elephants (approximately 250,000) on the continent. A key economic driver behind TFCAs like KAZA is nature-based tourism that seeks to maximize returns from marginal lands in a sector where southern Africa enjoys a global comparative advantage. Nature-based tourism (photographic, trophy hunting, etc.) now contributes about as much to the gross domestic product of southern Africa as agriculture, forestry, and fisheries combined – a remarkable and relatively recent development. However, the management of wildlife and livestock diseases (including zoonoses – diseases transmissible between animals and people) within the envisaged larger transboundary landscapes remains unresolved and an emerging policy issue of major concern to livestock production, associated access to export markets, and other sectors, including public health, in the region. Livestock farming is, of course, an important traditional way for communities in sub-Saharan Africa to build and maintain wealth, not to mention attain food security. Essentially, the TFCA concept and current internationally accepted approaches to the management of transboundary animal diseases (TADs) are largely incompatible. The TFCA concept promotes free movement of wildlife over large geographic areas, whereas the present approach to the control of TADs (especially in respect to directly transmitted infections) is to prevent movement of susceptible animals between areas where TADs occur and areas where they do not, and to similarly restrict trade in commodities derived from animals on the same basis. In short, the incompatibility between (a) current regulatory approaches for the control of diseases of agro-economic importance and (b) the vision of vast conservation landscapes without major fences represents one of the key threats to transboundary conservation success and thus risk-diversification of land-use options and livelihood opportunities. These represent a suite of issues that WCS and partners have been focusing on through the Animal & Human Health for the Environment and Development (AHEAD) program, which has worked to facilitate transparent, multidisciplinary policy dialogue and planning at various scales in the region since 2003.

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