10.08.2017 - Natural Sciences Sector

UNESCO, EU and Spain explore collaboration to strengthen Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve in Zimbabwe

© UNESCO Harare OfficeUNESCO-EU-Government of Spain Consultative meeting on strengthening the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve (MZBR) in Zimbabwe.

The UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (UNESCO ROSA) successfully hosted a one-day partnership meeting with the European Union (EU), the Embassy of Spain and the Zimbabwe Man and Biosphere (MAB) Committee in July 2017 at the UNESCO Gardens.

The purpose of the meeting was to identify areas of synergy for work and funding mobilization opportunities for issues relating to climate change, environmental research, natural resources, wildlife management and youth employment using the UNESCO MAB concept.

Dr Peggy Oti-Boateng, Senior Science Programme Specialist for Science Technology and Innovation at UNESCO ROSA made a presentation on MAB’s Biosphere Reserve (BR) concept. She explained that the concept promotes the conservation of landscape and ecosystems, territorial spatial management, national and regional integration, peace building especially in transboundary BRs, scientific and technical research cooperation, and long-term interactive and participatory processes with strong local community engagement. These various activities are divided across three zoned areas: the transition zone, the buffer zone and the core area.

‘Biospheres seek to halt the loss of biodiversity and promote sustainable development, and provide a good model for climate change and biodiversity conservation studies and eco-tourism, which Zimbabwe is currently pursuing’, explained Dr Peggy Oti-Boateng.

Professor Chris Magadza gave an update on the only nominated BR located in the Middle Zambezi in Zimbabwe. The National MAB Committee emphasized the limited available human and financial resources and the effective lack of government support to run the Lower Zambezi BR since its nomination. It also underlined the absence of legal instruments to prevent encroachment on the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve (MZBR).

Zimbabwe’s Middle Zambezi Valley was among 13 new international sites given enhanced conservation status as biosphere reserves by UNESCO in June 2010. The Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve extends from Lake Kariba and the Matusadona National Park through various national parks and safari areas adjacent to the Zambezi River, including Mana Pools, Sapi and Chewore, which have already been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site (see Figure 2). Of particular concern is the high rate of loss of biodiversity as a result of over-population, water insecurity and wildlife poaching, especially in Chirundu and Kariba. These threats highlight the need for proper conservation measures to protect the rich biodiversity and natural resources of the MZBR. Mrs Beula Chipoyera, Science Programme Officer of the Zimbabwe National Commission of UNESCO, drew attention to government support for the National MAB Committee to help finalize the ongoing assessment of the MZBR in order to report on the status of the reserve – a condition of the nomination.

Mr Andrea Janoha, Programme Manager for Natural Resource Management, Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Zimbabwe, expressed his appreciation to UNESCO for providing a platform to better understand the biosphere reserve concept. He also asked how the concept might be integrated into ongoing discussions on the EU-Government of Zimbabwe survey regarding the effective operation of national parks to promote conservation, cohabitation of humans and wildlife, and green jobs. He underlined the need to introduce a legal instrument to ensure the designated zones of the MZBR are maintained, and to prevent encroachment on the core zone, thereby ensuring its international significance is maintained. Ms Ana Álvarez López, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Spain in Harare, Zimbabwe, also supported the need to work together as partners to promote the BR concept and to link it to education for sustainable development for young people. The partners agreed to work together to mobilize funds to ensure the effective operations of the MZBR and to maintain its attributes as a true biosphere reserve in Zimbabwe.

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