The Government of Zimbabwe is implementing a five-year Global Environment Facility (GEF) – funded program to support conservation initiatives in North Western Zimbabwe. The project known as the Hwange-Sanyati Biological Corridor Program has the overall objective to develop land use and resource management capacity of managers and communities in the Hwange-Sanyati Biological Corridor (HSBC) of Zimbabwe and is executed through the World Bank.

The Project focuses on three key environmental components; Forestry, Wildlife and Landscape Management with the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), Forestry Commission, Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) as the implementing agencies.

The Forestry Component supports improved forest and wildlife management activities in two gazetted forests (Ngamo and Sikumi) in Hwange as well as REDD+ activities as a tool for good forest stewardship in Zimbabwe. The objective of this component is to improve forest and land management across the HSBC area by developing tools to address land degradation, land use change and deforestation. Through the project, there has been improvement in the capacity of the forest protection unit to deal with the challenges of wildlife and timber poaching as the project has made significant investments in improving radio communication for better responsiveness by the forest protection unit and improving game water supply. Overall this has facilitated an improvement in delivery on the implementation of forest management operational plans by the
Forestry Commission.

More significantly, the HSBC project is piloting a REDD+ sub project in the two forests in order to build national capacity on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) in the country. REDD+ takes a critical look at the role of conservation, sustainable forest management and enhancement of carbon stocks in developing countries. A total of 228 sampling plots have been established in Ngamo and Sikumi to quantify the above ground carbon stock for the purposes of trading on the carbon market. The potential social and environmental benefits of implementing this project include; improved provision of other ecosystem services (water quality regulation, ecotourism, provision of non-timber forest products) by the forests; biodiversity conservation; complimentary activities such as sustainable forest management and long term revenue streams for the communities and government.

Community engagement is imperative for any project success and the greatest challenge in the project area has been the existence of a divide between the communities and the Forestry Commission. Ngamo and Sikumi forests form the buffer area between the community and the Hwange National park and the project has come in to foster community engagement which has seen communities participating and playing a pivotal role in conservation activities like fire protection (through establishing of community fire brigades) as well as anti-poaching.

The HSBC project forestry component has strengthened the relationship between communities and the Forestry Commission. Through engagement, understanding and a sense of ownership of the forest resources has been created and community leadership has taken an active role of in creating awareness on the importance of protecting and conserving the forests and also mobilising the youth to participate in forest protection activities such as fireguard construction and firefighting.  This has led to a gradual decline in forest fire occurrences through combined efforts with communities such as Magoli Village (Ward 15, Hwange district) whilst a decline in timber and wildlife poaching in the two forest estates has also been noted and attributed to community participation in anti-poaching activities

To further incentivise the community towards forest conservation, the HSBC project is supporting a forest-based enterprise of beekeeping. Bee-farmer field schools have been established and selected farmers have been supported in setting up apiaries in the forest area to establish a honey value chain. This mutually benefits the farmers (as they derive income for livelihood enhancement through the sale of honey and other beekeeping products) and the forest conservation agenda (as farmers intensify their efforts to protect the forest from which their bees forage). Farmers are educated on sustainable ways of beekeeping which encompass the use of modern beehives like the Kenyan Top Bar (KTB) and Langstroth hives. This is a shift from use of traditional hives which were made from tree logs and tree barks and therefore not friendly to the environment. Harvesting techniques are also pro-conservation as they do not cause forests fires in
the forests.

Violet Makoto is the Information and Communications Manager at the Forestry Commission Email: viemakoto@gmail.com

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