The focus of the project has been on policy reforms and institutional strengthening at the national level and piloting innovative management options at Bangweulu Game Management Areas. The UNDP supported GEF financed Reclassification and Effective Management of National Protected Areas System (REMNPAS) Project developed a public-private-community partnership with African Parks Network, which led to the formation of the Bangweulu Wetlands Management Board (BWMB) in 2008. The BWMB consists of representatives of local communities, African Parks and the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) and has the overall responsibility for management of the Bangweulu Wetlands Area. This has removed the costs to the government for managing the area and ensures that the stakeholders at the heart of the project, the people that live and work in the community, have a role to play in managing the Bangweulu Wetlands Area.
REMNPAS was a national project intended to put in place appropriate policy, regulatory and governance frameworks which would provide new tools for public/community/private/civil society PA management partnerships. The project worked to restore wildlife and protect the Bangweulu Wetlands ecosystem while improving the socio-economic well-being of the people living in the area by establishing an innovative private-public-community partnership to manage the area. The aim of the partnership is to develop a financially sustainable protected area complex that contributes positively to the profile of Zambia as a tourist destination, supported by efficient management systems. However, final gazettement has not yet taken place and is still under review. Although day-to-day management responsibility lies with African Parks, the overall authority is the Bangweulu Wetlands Management Board. Much time and effort has been spent in developing the Articles of Association which were signed in 2008.
Public-private-community partnership building. A partnership between the Zambia Wildlife Authority, the local communities (and their traditional leadership) and African Parks was established, which led to the formation of the Bangweulu Wetlands Management Board in which authorities from local, regional as well as national level were represented. This involved consulting with the participating parties to develop and adopt an agreement under which the area would be managed.
Enhancing institutional capacity. The project also helped build institutional capacity at both project and national level, and significantly increased the number of staff working at the site level.
Full and effective consultation and participation among partners is key. Prior to establishing the agreement, full and effective consultation and participation of all parties, including local communities, is important to ensure mutual understanding of the agreement and its expected outcomes and benefits. This is done through considering good ideas from stakeholders. If an idea is bad or makes no technical, economic, or social sense, be prepared to thoroughly state the case as to why it makes no sense or is infeasible and it should be done without an attitude taking into account cultural resource management information. This helps reduce risks and create a shared vision of expected outcomes.
Invest in long term partnership agreements. The partnership agreement under the Bangweulu Wetlands Management Board was for 20 years. This long-term agreement has proved useful in establishing full commitment among partners to achieving successful outcomes and allows a suitable period of time for parties to see tangible benefits from a successful partnership. For this reason, partnership agreements of at least 20 years are recommended, with the option of renewal.
Improved financial sustainability. By outsourcing management of the area to the Bangweulu Wetlands Management Board and African Parks, the costs to the Government of Zambia for park management were removed. Through the partnership agreement made with the government and local communities, African Parks took responsibility for managing and financing the area to the area’s effective management. The establishment of the partnership agreement led to the investment in the area significantly increasing.
Improving conservation status of endemic species. Bangweulu Wetlands is the only place in Africa where the Black Lechwe still occurs in significant numbers. Over the project’s lifetime, the Black Lechwe population increased from 35,000 in 2005 to 75,000 by 2012 according to population estimates. The shoebill stork, which is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN, also occurs in the Bangweulu wetland region. This population is the most southern occurrence of the species and Bangweulu is one of the only few areas where actual sighting can be assured.
Improving law enforcement and livelihoods. The project has put in place strategies for conservation through improving law enforcement by recruiting 80 village scouts to patrol the area and promoting the benefits of natural resources management to communities, such as job creation through tourism, community development through social amenities development and opening up market linkages through tourism which contributes to poverty reduction.