The Minister of Tourism in Zambia, Rodney Sikumba, recently announced the launch of the first-ever Wildlife Protected Area Account aimed at supporting nature-based tourism in the country. This initiative seeks to promote sustainable development by integrating the country’s natural resources into development planning and national economic accounts, utilizing the system of environmental and economic accounting.
Mr. Sikumba emphasized the government’s commitment to expanding natural capital accounting, identifying the tourism industry as a sector with the potential to contribute significantly to Zambia’s economic transformation. The tourism and wildlife natural capital account will serve as a tool to prioritize public investments in wildlife protection and national park management, including law enforcement measures. Moreover, it will identify opportunities for private sector involvement in wildlife conservation and the growth of nature-based tourism.
The decision to establish the Wildlife Protected Area Account follows the successful launch of land, water, and forest accounts by the Ministry of Finance and National Planning. However, Minister Sikumba expressed concern over the outdated information presented in the National Parks and Wildlife accounts survey, which indicated a decline in animal stocks from 2008 to 2015. He emphasized the importance of regular updates to the information to attract more investors and tourists and enable the government to develop effective policies for the sector.
Nachilala Nkombo, the Country Director of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), highlighted alarming rates of annual deforestation, habitat loss, and competition for land between wildlife and other economic sectors as major challenges. She urged the government to address these issues to unlock the potential of the wildlife sector. Ms. Nkombo also drew attention to the acute shortage of manpower for managing protected areas, leading to an imbalance in the scout-to-area ratio.
In response, Minister Sikumba pledged the government’s commitment to addressing the challenges faced by the sector. He expressed gratitude to the World Bank and WWF for their support in developing the Wildlife and Protected Area Account. This account provides valuable information on changes in animal populations, their utilization, and partial accounts for the value of harvested wildlife. It also highlights different land cover classes in Zambia, including forest, cropland, grassland, built-up areas, wetlands, and water bodies.