By Arnold Chasaya
While all national parks along Zambia’s line-of-rail have continued to receive first-born’s investment attention, countless more national parks that are miles away from the so-called line-of-rail have received only political sympathy–not even empathy.
This is at the expense of the undoubted economic potential the marginalised national parks present before our own eyes.
Nsumbu National Park is one of the many economically viable national parks that have been sacrificed for the expansion of only a few national parks located in the reach of “city bakeries”.
The national park lies on the western shore of Lake Tanganyika, Northern Zambia. It covers about 2000 km² and has 80 km of lake shore.
Besides its rich biodiversity, Nsumbu National Park is special because of one particular asset: the Kasaba Bay!
Kasaba Bay was one of Dr. David Kaunda’s favourite working holiday and private retreat destinations.
“Dr. Kaunda often travelled to Kasaba Bay, which was a Presidential Lodge, for retreat, where some historical decisions and policy directives where announced” (Lusaka Times, 2022).
DEPTH OF THINGS
While the national parks along the so-called line-of-rail have been glorified so much for so long, many of them hardly showcase rare animal species whose sighting every tourist would want to keep spending dollars on, such as the Blue Duiker, a forest dwelling species unique to a countable number of national parks in Zambia, such as the Nsumbu National Park.
Other rare species you can only find in these marginalised national parks are small predators such as serval and side-striped jackal, notes Philip Briggs on Safari Bookings.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
For Zambia’s tourism sector to expand and contribute meaningfully to the country’s economic development, we need an immediate change of mindset at central government level.
What do I mean? Government needs to invest in integrating these marginalised national parks in its planning. But before that integration is done, government needs to appreciate that these national parks have selling points unique to their locations; therefore, the integration should not use the same measuring scale across. What may work for the Lower Zambezi National Park may, terribly, fail to work for the Nsumbu National Park.
It’s so disappointing to note that in its Tourism Statistical Digest, which is a critical document…, the Ministry of Tourism takes a somewhat biased approach in reporting numbers–a practice that favours only the so-called “top 5 national parks”, which are Mosi-Oa-Tunya, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa, Kafue, and Lusaka national parks.
For example, in the 2021 edition of the Tourism Digest, only the five national parks received the usual first-born treatment, at the expense of the many potent national parks located in marginalised rural communities of the country.
This biased approach threatens the growth or Zambia’s tourism sector because it presents an inconclusive picture about tourism numbers–a picture that results in selective planning.