Machenje Fishing Lodge offers innovative model for communities that may benefit from conservation-driven enterprise.
The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Taonga Safaris, and residents of the Sekute Chiefdom today celebrated the opening of Machenje Fishing Lodge, a community-owned conservation enterprise located about 60 km outside of Livingstone, Zambia. Zambia’s Minister of Tourism and Arts, Hon. Sylvia T. Masebo, MP, officially opened the lodge.
With its picturesque location along the Zambezi River, in close proximity to some of Southern Africa’s most famous attractions, including Victoria Falls, the sport-fishing lodge is an ideal tourist destination for those seeking either a tranquil African getaway or an adventure-filled trip. More notably, Machenje is the product of an innovative partnership between a local community and a private sector tourism operator, formed to enhance conservation in a region that boasts some of the largest herds of elephant on the African continent.
“This region is home to a quarter of Africa’s elephants and has one of the most important terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems in Africa. It has also undergone tremendous development in the past several years, intensifying competition for natural resources and conflict between people and wildlife,” said Patrick Bergin, CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation. “With Machenje Fishing Lodge, we are demonstrating that it’s possible to manage development in such a way that local communities receive direct economic benefits, lands are secured for wildlife, and natural resources are sustainably managed over the long term.”
The Kazungula District of Zambia, where the Sekute Chiefdom is located, lies close to the borders of Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. Elephants and other wildlife regularly move between these countries to get to various habitats, but over time, unplanned human settlements had disrupted some of the wildlife corridors that connected these disparate protected areas. In exchange for AWF developing Machenje Fishing Lodge and providing other community and economic benefits—including rebuilding a primary school and providing employment opportunities for local residents as wildlife scouts—the Sekute community agreed to set aside more than 20,000 hectares of land strictly for conservation. AWF helped the Chiefdom establish the Sekute Community Development Trust (the Trust) to oversee management of the conservation lands.
AWF and the leadership of the Sekute Chiefdom are looking at Machenje as a long-term strategy to generate revenue for the community—through the Trust—to use toward local development projects. Under an agreement brokered by AWF, the Sekute community owns the land and lodge, while the private sector partner manages the daily operations. A portion of revenues are paid out to the community as part of a benefit-sharing agreement; the operator will also employ local residents for several permanent staff positions, with temporary staff to be engaged on a need basis.
The partnership arrangement has been hailed by the Hon. Ms. Masebo, who previously visited Machenje Fishing Lodge during its final phase of construction, as a model for communities to potentially benefit from conservation-driven enterprises. “We have an example of a viable community-based conservation enterprise model involving communities in partnership with the private sector that contributes to tourism development and wildlife conservation,” the Hon. Ms. Masebo remarked in her speech at the opening ceremony.
Noting that the presence of such a significant elephant population in the region can occasionally result in human–wildlife conflict, the Minister added, “It is through community-based conservation enterprises such as Machenje Fishing Lodge that local communities like Sekute are able to turn that ‘burden’ of living with elephants into an opportunity.”
Read the full article on the Zambezi Traveller webiste here.
Mayu Mishina, African Wildlife Foundation, +1 202 939 3324, firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Simpson, Taonga Safaris, +260 977 333184, email@example.com
Read more from the latest issue:
Creating Community Value in Conservation (ZT, Issue 13, June 2013)
Conservation-Driven Enterprise (ZT, Issue 13, June 2013)
Easements for Education (ZT, Issue 13, June 2013)