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Rural communities living around national parks within the Mozambique component of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area were protected from some of the devastating economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as more than €439 000 was channelled into cash-for-work programmes that created temporary employment for more than 700 community members.  
This was part of a €1 million emergency relief fund provided by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development through the German Development Bank (KfW). The programmes – carried out between August 2020 and July 2021 in and around the Limpopo, Banhine and Zinave national parks – were implemented by Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC) and Peace Parks Foundation.  

A helping hand for both people and parks 

The members of communities who are reliant on natural resources and income from conservation areas have had to bear a heavy burden caused by COVID-19 lockdown measures, including the shutdown of tourism and restrictions on travel, which cut them off from already limited opportunities to earn an income. It was therefore an urgent priority to provide added socio-economic assistance to these communities during these times of distress.

Werner Myburgh, Peace Parks Foundation CEO

The cash-for-work eco-jobs included fence line maintenance, road clearing, land management, general maintenance of park infrastructure and the construction of facilities such as ablution blocks and kitchens. In addition to providing much-needed income, the work of the community members contributed towards the necessary upkeep of the parks, by improving infrastructure and rehabilitating productive assets upon which wildlife management and eco-tourism initiatives rely. 

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The work of the community members contributed towards the necessary upkeep of the parks.

“The parks benefitted from a developmental standpoint, while the communities benefitted from income generation. This highlights the importance of a community-based approach, working hand-in-hand with the people residing in and around protected areas, to ensure that they are able to actively participate in conservation activities and gain benefit from them,” explained Mária Cidália Mahumane, Coordinator of the General Directorate of ANAC.  

Azarias Nchachave, who resides in the Tcha Tchai Community in the buffer zone surrounding Banhine National Park, said that the money he received through the programme helped him to refurbish his small home.  
“I used part of the money to buy concrete blocks, roof sheets and cement, and built two more compartments in my house. I am becoming a father soon, so I plan to use the remaining funds to build a small store when I can sell essential goods to increase my family’s income.” 

KfW, which has for many years provided donor funding for management and developmental activities in several transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs) where Peace Parks operates, extended a valuable lifeline to thousands of community members in these regions, through a €6million COVID-19 emergency relief fund.  

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The funds are supporting similar programmes which are still ongoing in the Kavango-Zambezi TFCA and the Malawi-Zambia TFCA. In Mozambique specifically, the cash-for-work programmes implemented generated an average of 26 678 MZN (€354) income for each of the 709 women and men from more than 40 villages around the Limpopo, Zinave and Banhine national parks, who were carefully identified as needing assistance through close collaboration with traditional leaders. 

From a conservation standpoint, there was a significant increase in snaring of wildlife in the parks from the onset of the shutdown of tourism, due to lost income opportunities for community members, but with the COVID relief programme bringing in replacement income, this trend was quickly reversed. In Limpopo National Park, for example, an average of 204 snares were removed per month in 2020, which dropped to 22 per month in the first half of 2021.  

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Ingo Baum, Senior Portfolio Manager of KfW, says that supporting communities around the national parks during the COVID pandemic, in partnership with ANAC and Peace Parks, is a top priority.  
“Throughout our time supporting ANAC, in cooperation with Peace Parks, we have always strived to play our part in solving the most pressing challenges facing conservation and communities. COVID-19 has posed possibly the greatest challenge of all, so it was important for us to make funds available to mitigate the impacts. We are delighted to see that the interventions supported by the emergency relief fund have secured a measure of economic stability for the people around the TFCAs.” 

Myburgh expressed that: “Peace Parks is eternally grateful for the remarkable support that KfW has provided towards helping vulnerable communities through what has hopefully been the worst of this destructive pandemic”.   

Extra support provided by Peace Parks 
To further mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, Peace Parks Foundation contributed an additional $100 000 of its own funding towards rations and equipment, and preventative health measures and educational programmes related to COVID-19. 

Across the three parks, a total of 50 000 reusable face masks, 9 000 single use face masks, 420 pairs of protective glasses, 1 941 litres of hand sanitiser and 3 140 bars of soap were distributed, along with 185 educational posters and stickers. 

Thousands of units of 1kg carbolic soap bars were provided to the Massingir district health services and vulnerable communities in Limpopo National Park.

The Great Limpopo TFCA covers an area of almost 100 000 km², including the Limpopo, Zinave and Banhine national parks, the Massingir and Corumana areas and interlinking regions in Mozambique, as well as various privately and state-owned conservation areas in South Africa and Zimbabwe.  

The Mozambique Government works in close partnership with Peace Parks to restore, protect and sustainably develop of all three national parks, which collectively measure over 22 000 km2. Long-term community development programmes are an integral part of these initiatives, helping to create sustainable livelihoods through an array of projects focused on conservation agriculture, skills development, the creation of alternative income sources and employment opportunities provided through conservation and natural-resource management, amongst others.    

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