LOCAL communities in and around protected and conserved areas in Africa are set to benefit from a US$20 million facility to boost their recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 on people and nature under an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Germany programme.
This was announced at the on-going IUCN World Conservation Congress which is being held in Marseille, France.
In a statement, the IUCN and the German development agency GIZ said the new programme aimed to strengthen the resilience of community-based tourism in and around protected and conserved areas worldwide.
Through the programme, the German government is investing up to 17 million Euros (US$20 million) to boost the recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 on people and nature.
“Protected areas play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the planet and our health as a species, and are critically important in conserving biodiversity, ecosystemservices and mitigating impacts of natural disasters and climate change.
“Through this project, IUCN provides a lifeline to local communities who are unable to finance their vital nature conservation operations after decades of reliance on ecotourism ventures to supplement meagre budgets,” said James Hardcastle, associate director, Global Protected Areas Programme, IUCN.
The programme, which is funded by the German Federal ministry of economic cooperation and development (BMZ) and includes implementing partners such as UNESCO and the WWF, will use tourism as an instrument to contribute to sustainable development in developing and emerging countries.
Under the initiative, local communities and indigenous peoples will be engaged in developing community-basedecotourism action plans and revising site management plans to include detailed tourism destination and visitor management protocols and guidance.
Africa’s travel and tourism sector employed more than 24 million people in 2019, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
In a 2021 report, the African region shed an estimated$83bn in GDP contribution (down by 49.2 percent) and lost up to 7.2 million industry jobs compared to 2019 levels.
But Covid-19 has plunged the tourism industry in Africa and around the world into a crisis, crushing the supporting food, service, and manufacturing sectors thatdepend on tourism for employment and incomes.
The International Monetary Fund predicted that real GDP among African countries dependent on tourism shrunk by 12 percent in 2020.
The Covid-19 pandemic has kept tourists confined to their home countries resulting in wildlife conservation initiatives that depend on tourism revenues being severely crippled.
With many tourists either cancelling or postponing their travel plans, budgets for wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe and most other African countries have been decimated drastically, reducing the capacity of responsible authorities to effectively execute their duties
Zimbabwe and most other southern African countries have some of Africa’s largest game reserves, which are home to thriving populations of the big five; lion, leopard,rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo.—The Herald