Contributing towards financial sustainability in Zimbabwe’s National Parks

Zimbabwe is known as a World of Wonders and justifiably so – some of the most incredible and scenic places of Southern Africa can be found there – from the majestic Victoria Falls , to Africa’s second highest waterfall in Nyanga and the breathtaking and beautiful Matobo. Zimbabwe’s eleven National Parks host an impressive selection of wildlife and
several are home to Africa’s big five. Zimbabwe is one of a few countries world wide that conserves more than 10% of its total land area, in fact more than 13% of the country is protected, over 5 million hectares. Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) manages these areas, as well as the Recreational Parks, Botanical Gardens and Sanctuaries, on behalf of the Government and people of Zimbabwe. As the responsible authority ZNPWA is aware of the importance of providing facilities that meet the expectations of todays visitors and to do so using the best environmental and other practices available.
Accomodation and entry fee’s – together with concession fees and income from hunting operations, generates the bulk of the Authority’s income. Many of the facilities were built many years ago and are in need of renovation and refurbishment to make them more market-related. Infrastructure in the Parks also requires upgrading. Roads, electrical supply and reticulation, sewerage treatment and water supply systems are all outdated and can benefit from new technology. Funds are obviously needed to maintain or upgrade these services and this re-emphasises the importance of this study.
In this regard the Authority extended a mandate to Crafford & Crafford Architects (C&C) in July 2013 to apply for CPFP funding to undertake the study. The South African Department of Trade and Industry’s (dti) Capital Projects Feasibility Program is a cost-sharing grant that contributes towards the cost of feasibility studies likely to lead to projects that will increase South African exports . The application was approved by the Committee on the 10th September. An experienced team consisting of experts in a number of disciplines were put together, who could advise on the cost of construction, alternative energy, infrastructure planning, marketing – and tourism issues and park management.
The Feasibility Study was conducted in all eleven National Parks, with the objective of investigating the following key aspects:
• the need for, and cost of, upgrading existing tourism facilities to meet today’s market expectations
• the benefit and cost of green technology
• the extent of shortfalls in park infrastructure such as roads, fencing and utilities
• the possibility of additional tourism facilities and activities in or close to Parks which will grow the parks’ income stream

The Authority’s contribution to the study included the provision of information allowing the team to compile Baseline Studies, accommodating the team in the parks and other logistical support. These Baseline Studies informed decisions taken by the team and touched on the following aspects:
• Zimbabwe Tourism Assessment
• existing tourism facilities within the parks
• Park infrastructure assessment
• Park zoning, ecological management and natural resources

The team leader conducted an initial overview of all the National Parks, towards the end of 2013 and compiled a report illustrating his findings and first impressions. The Rapid Appraisal Report is numbered 01 and gives a good introduction to the existing conditions on the ground and the potential within every Park. The National Parks of Zimbabwe are:
• Matobo National Park
• Hwange National Park
• Kazuma Pan National Park
• Zambezi National Park
• Victoria Falls National Park
• Chizarira National Park
• Matusadona National Park
• Mana Pools National Park
• Nyanga National Park
• Chimanimani National Park
• Gonarezhou National Park
The reports compiled subsequently list the parks in the sequence above, which starts at Matobo and follows a clockwise direction around the country.
Working with the Kalahari Sands Foundation in Bulawayo, Black Crystal Environmental Consultants in Harare was tasked to gather all the information available on the parks. Their report is numbered 02 and titled Data Collection and Collation of Baseline Data from ZPWMA. Taking this and other sources of information, Baseline Studies for the eleven National Parks were compiled (numbered 03 – 12) as well as an overall assessment of Zimbabwe’s tourism industry, titled Tourism Baseline Study/13.
The team visited most of the parks from February through to end May 2014. Parks not visited by the full team were investigated in detail by the team leader, to measure up buildings or investigate particular aspects related to roads, utilities etc. Site Visit Reports were generated by the engineering teams, numbered 14 and 15 respectively. The
architects measured up all buildings related to tourist activities such as accommodation, reception, dining and camping facilities and this information is available under the title Existing Tourism Facilities, document number 16. One of the requirements of the CPFP program is that the dti meet with the project owner/s halfway through the study. This was done in October 2014 and Mr Donald Mabusela (Director: EMIA), Mr Pumzo Tshikitshwa (IDIAD) and Me Sibongile Mazibuko (Deputy Director: International Trade and Economic Development) travelled with the team leader to Harare. There they met with the Permanent Secretary: Ministry of Environment, Water & Climate Mr Prince Mupazviriho, the ZPWMA Director General Mr Edson Chidziya and senior management as well as members of the newly appointed Board headed up by Mr Alvin Ncube. An overnight visit to the closest National Park, Nyanga, was also made. The Director: Commercial Services, Me Tariro Musonza, was the contact person within ZPWMA right throughout the study and kindly arranged this visit. The South African delegation also met with the South African Ambassador in Harare, Mr Vuzimuzi Mavimbela.

Informed by the Baseline Studies and with up-to-date information gathered during the site visits, the team embarked on the four aspects comprising the Feasibility Study. Separate in-depth reports were produced by the responsible team members, as follows:
• Upgrade Proposals/17 by Crafford & Crafford Architects, illustrating the extent of work to be undertaken to upgrade existing tourism facilities to meet today’s market expectations.
• Green Technology /18 by Crafford & Crafford Architects, detailing products and systems that can be used in the National Parks
• Alternative Energy Proposals by BDE Consulting Engineers, numbered 19
• Civil Infrastructure Upgrades by Bosch Stemele, numbered 20
• New Tourism Product Opportunities by Lorton Consulting, numbered 21
• Illustrative Financials: Tourism Upgrades/22 by Lorton Consulting and
• Illustrative Financials: New Tourism Products/23 by Lorton Consulting
The objective of this Feasibility Study is to enable the project owner, ZPWMA, to better understand its assets and where and when required, mobilise investment. In an effort to streamline this process, the team produced a number of leaflets illustrating the unique opportunities to support, invest in or fund infrastructure upgrades, new commercial
products or green technology. These can be assembled to suit different occasions, inside a branded folder designed for this purpose.