The meeting provided extensive opportunities for collaboration and sharing best practices, tools and innovative solutions for sustainably managing TFCA landscapes spanning over 950 million hectares across the region.

Steve Collins, SADC TFCA Network coordinator, says, "It was incredibly encouraging to see the enthusiasm and passion for TFCAs among all the participants from so many different countries and sectors. Though we each play varied roles, our shared dedication to advancing transfrontier conservation unifies us."

The Government of Mozambique hosted this event, including a field visit to Maputo National Park, which is part of the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area connecting Mozambique, Eswatini and South Africa, and the first and only marine TFCA on the continent. 

According to the network, delegates experienced first-hand the park's transformation into a beacon of wildlife rehabilitation and protection having overcome the scars of a 16-year civil war, which had resulted in the depletion of biodiversity.

Park officials also highlighted Maputo National Park's vast potential for generating sustainable financing and socio-economic benefits for local communities through the continued growth of nature-based tourism.

Ndapanda Kanime, senior programme officer of natural resources and wildlife from the SADC Secretariat, presented the newly approved 2023-2033 TFCA programme to establish clear goals and strategic direction for the next decade.

With an affirmed vision in place, participants could focus discussions on practical implementation, forging collaborative partnerships and overcoming pressing challenges across the TFCA landscapes.

Dedicated workstreams discussed issues such as:
  • climate change adaptation
  • harmonising land-use and oceans management
  • improving rural community livelihoods through wildlife conservation
  • mitigating escalating human-wildlife conflicts across the region, and
  • building human capital through training, research and knowledge exchange.

"The diversity of players at the table helped us unpack complex topics from multiple perspectives and identify collective solutions," says Collins. "We realise these challenges can't be solved in isolation." 

A major session explored sustainable financing approaches like carbon markets, debt-for-nature swaps and conservation trust funds that can reduce TFCAs' dependence on external donor funding.

"It was encouraging to see Member States really value TFCAs and proactively investigate smart, diversified financing models," adds Collins.

The meeting was supported by:
  • the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, through its technical cooperation and financial cooperation
  • USAID Southern Africa
  • IUCN, and
  • MozBio.

Key international partners like the EU and IUCN updated participants on major additional TFCA support programmes unfolding across the region.

This includes the German Government-funded TFCA Financing Facility, whose second call for grants has closed. The SADC Secretariat reported steady progress in approving key strategies and guidelines to formally establish and elevate TFCAs from early conceptual stages to fully operationalised.

During a reviewing process of the SADC TFCA Programme, Member States amended the TFCA listing criteria, which resulted in a reduction of officially recognised TFCA from 18 to 12 with another two to three likely to become recognised in 2024.

Each of the 12 formally recognised SADC TFCAs provided updates on key achievements, activities and progress between October 2022 and October 2023.

For example, the Iona-Skeleton Coast Transfrontier Park advanced marketing efforts including its marine component. In addition, the Kavango Zambezi TFCA conducted its first cross-border elephant survey, with an estimated elephant population of 227 900 across the Partner States of:
  • Angola
  • Botswana
  • Namibia
  • Zambia, and
  • Zimbabwe.

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park coordinated patrols, maintained its fence and approved standard operating procedures for managing carnivores and flights within the park. These updates highlighted diverse conservation, development and community engagement accomplishments across the TFCAs over the past year.

The SADC Secretariat, Boundless Southern Africa, and the GIZ Climate-Resilient and Natural Resource Management project provided updates on the implementation of the SADC Tourism Programme 2020-2030.

Key activities include progress on the SADC 'Univisa' project to facilitate regional travel, border efficiency assessments and a benchmark study of successful air access policies, practices and infrastructure. 

Marketing efforts by Boundless Southern Africa encompassed:
  • travel trade shows
  • press trips
  • social media campaigns, and
  • itinerary development to showcase TFCAs.

The programme, as was highlighted during the event, aims to:
  • strengthen regional integration
  • develop the tourism economy
  • upgrade border posts
  • build capacity, and
  • promote TFCAs as world-class ecotourism destinations.

Collins concludes, "I sincerely hope that by then, we've operationalised more user-friendly communications platforms, formally established two to three more TFCAs and implemented sustainable rural development and wildlife conservation projects across these landscapes. If so, we'll have made 2023 a truly landmark year for advancing transfrontier conservation in Southern Africa."

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