MIKE Support for Lower Zambezi National Park
Lower Zambezi National Park (LZNP) covers 4,092 km² and is in the south of Zambia along the border with Zimbabwe. It lies adjacent to the Mana Pools, Chewore and Sapi areas in Zimbabwe. To identify the support needs for the area, a four-day planning meeting and site visit took place. This included two days planning meetings with senior DNPW staff, and staff from Conservation Lower Zambezi, a Zambian NGO which provides management, logistical and other support to the DNPW team responsible for the park’s management and conservation.
Key areas of support included: improving the effectiveness and efficiency of patrols through support for training, equipment and rations, as well as building the capacity of the village scout component of the patrol force; strengthening the capacity of law enforcement operations managers and facilities, through the establishment of a new operations base in the park and a marine unit to enable riverine patrols; and improving the accessibility of the area through improving transportation and roads. Activities began on the ground in early 2020, just as the impact of the COVID pandemic began to be felt around the world.
This resulted in operational restrictions and delays and made the conducting of patrols in populated areas such as the community areas surrounding the park more challenging. Despite this excellent progress has been made on the ground. In September 2020, a decision was made to create an all-female patrol unit in Zambia. 29 candidates were selected to participate in a 5-day selection course. Ten women were finally selected and became operation at the end of 2020. The initiative proved such as success that plans are underway to repeat the process during 2022.
With support from the project a new “Marine Unit” has been established and specialised training and equipment, including a new patrol boat, provided to the new team. The Marine Unit will be based out of a new operation base established on the Zambezi River at the entrance to the park and will complement similar units already in place on the Zimbabwe side of the river. Thanks to funding from both the EU and Japan, this site has been thoroughly redeveloped to both serve as a basis for the unit, and welcome visitors to the park and allow them to complete entrance formalities in comfort.
Support from the EU has also significantly boosted patrol activity throughout the area, with around 20% of all patrols in the area being provided with rations through the project, as well as patrol field equipment in the form of uniforms, kit, and other necessities. Patrol staff mobility has improved through the deployment of two new Toyota Landcruisers to the area. Importantly, the purchase of a back-hoe loader has also enabled improvements to the park’s road network, allowing access to previously remote and under patrolled parts of the park.