Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) are founded on the realization that natural resources that straddle international boundaries are a shared asset with the potential to meaningfully contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and the welfare and socio-economic development of rural communities. Also, TFCAs are practical means of demonstrating regional integration. According to the IUCN/ World DATA on Protected Areas there were 287 Transboundary Protected Areas around the world in 2007.
Currently, there are 18 TFCAs in SADC in both terrestrial and marine environments in various stages of development. The configuration of SADC TFCAs varies from those that are Transfrontier Parks (TP) and include two or more adjacent and formal protected areas (e.g. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park); to those that include a complexity of land uses such as communal land, concession areas and formally protected areas (e.g. Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) TFCA). SADC TFCAs are not necessarily between SADC Member States only but may also involve partnerships with countries that border SADC Member States. Three categories based on the legal status and levels of development of the TFCAs exist:
The SADC Member States at their meeting of March 2011 in Johannesburg, South Africa adopted an overarching vision and mission for SADC TFCAs.
SADC, a model of community centred, regionally integrated and sustainably managed network of world class Transfrontier Conservation Areas.
To develop SADC into a functional and integrated network of Transfrontier Conservation Areas where shared natural resources are sustainably co-managed and conserved to foster socioeconomic development, and regional integration for the benefit of people living within and around TFCAs, the SADC region, and the world.
Several policies and legal frameworks provide an enabling environment for the establishment and development of TFCAs in the SADC region. They include the SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement (1999), the SADC Protocol on Forestry (2002), the SADC Protocol on Shared Water Courses (2002) and the SADC Regional Biodiversity Strategy (2006). Further, the revised SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) has identified sustainable development, conservation of wildlife and transboundary natural resources as a key priority for SADC. To implement the Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement with regard to TFCAs, SADC developed the SADC Programme for Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) in 2013.
The SADC Member States mandated the SADC Secretariat to facilitate and support their efforts in the establishment and development of TFCAs. SADC acknowledges that TFCAs can be effective means for fostering regional cooperation and integration, and for enhancing socio-economic development in rural areas through the sustainable use of shared natural and cultural resources. The SADC Programme for TFCAs highlights seven action areas for reaching its overarching vision:
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Many renowned tourism destinations are situated within SADC TFCAs. Although tourism can help to generate employment in rural and remote areas, thereby contributing to poverty reduction, developing of TFCAs includes a lot more than tourism development. With sustainable rural development and biodiversity conservation as objectives, the task at hand is enormous. Private sector, civil society, communities and governments have to find a way to align their interests, join forces and invest skills, time, and money to make the TFCA idea a reality on the ground. The development of TFCAs does not yield short term benefits, and actors and stakeholders must realize they are in for a long journey.
Communities play a pivotal role in TFCA development. The long established notion that communities are a threat to conservation has to be overcome in favour of communities being stewards, guardians or beneficiaries of natural assets. This will require that they are not only integrated in the processes of developing the TFCAs through participation in the planning and decision making, but also through gainful activities and returns on their investment. As this will not always be possible with a limited natural resource, the creation of alternatives livelihood becomes crucial. These alternatives may involve agriculture, game ranching, tourism and service sectors or other public employment. Beside this, the consumptive and non-consumptive utilisation of natural resources should be managed within thresholds of sustainability. It is therefore vital that the full suite of opportunities is realised to the extent that they provide broader economic development platforms for public/private/community partnerships and investment opportunities. The SADC Secretariat assists Member States identify best practices, sharing of experiences and mobilising additional resources for investing in TFCA development.