Minister Michael Usi visits Nkhota Kota Wildlife Reserve, impressed by African Parks

Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture, Michael Usi, says he is impressed by what African Parks is doing in improving the livelihoods of communities around NkhotaKota Wildlife Reserve.

He said this on Sunday, June 6, 2021 when he visited the reserve and toured an irrigation scheme that African Parks is implementing for some villages close to the game reserve.

Tourism Minister Michael Usi.

The minister encouraged African Parks to continue helping communities, adding that the survival of the reserve very much depends on the type of the engagement that the reserve has with communities around it.

He, however, said he is aware that in every situation there are always ‘deviants’ who would cross the red line time and again. He said in such cases, the park administration should mete out requisite sanctions guided by the law to ensure that there is compliance.

“We have situations in other wildlife protected areas where the relationship between communities and park is not perfect. Communities are invading parks and do what they want; they sometimes burn Police vehicles and threaten to kill the minister.

“So, when the red line is crossed, you must not always behave like you are more than Jesus himself but to exact the required punishment as prescribed by our laws,” said Usi, adding that tolerance by authorities of deviant behaviour by communities can only go so far.

The minister added that he was also impressed to learn that African Parks is taking steps to protect the ‘Mpatsa’ fish in Bua River, which according to the presentation by African Parks, is an endangered species.

In his remarks to the communities that are benefiting from the irrigation scheme, Usi urged them to use the development responsibly and to always ensure that there is peaceful co-existence between them and the reserve. He also urged them to continue preserving and promoting their culture as culture is an important element of tourism.

“What you have here other people do not have in other areas. This is very good development because it will help you not to go into the reserve to kill animals as part of your livelihood. The reserve is yours and you must own it. That is to say you must jealously guard the reserve and report any poaching activities to authorities. You must also promote culture because other countries also have similar animals that we have here but the reason they come here is to see and appreciate our culture,” said the minister.

In his presentation earlier, Park Manager, Samuel Kamoto said before African Parks signed an agreement to manage the park on 23 July 2015 as a Public Private Partnership arrangement with the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture, there were so many problems at NkhotaKota Wildlife Reserve.

The challenges included low morale for workers, rampant poaching and cutting down of trees, especially in the peripheral of the reserve area, and communication. He also said there was also a lot of charcoal burning as well as ‘chamba’ cultivation in the northern part of the reserve.

“The situation has substantially improved now since we started implementing various projects at the reserve, including community engagement and stakeholder support. We are paying school fees for children from ultra-poor households from primary school to university; we are bringing piped water to the communities; we are helping under-five clinics in their child spacing programmes; we are also paying volunteer teachers, among other initiatives.” said Kamoto.

NkhotaKota Wildlife Reserve covers an area of 18,000 square kilometres and is home to different animals and over 280 species of birds.

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