ON THE WILD SIDE

Zambia 2014 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Kampamba A. Kombe, Acting Director General of Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), on the careful promotion of Zambia's natural wonders, and the need to improve connectivity to boost tourist numbers.

Kampamba A. Kombe
BIOGRAPHY
Kampamba A. Kombe attended the University of Zambia between 2001 and 2005, graduating with a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LLB). He went on to gain a Law Practice Certificate from the Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE) in 2007. He has worked for the Lusaka City Council, the Anti-Corruption Commission, and since 2008 has been a State Advocate for the Ministry of Justice. In 2011, Kombe joined ZAWA as a Legal Officer, moving to become ZAWA’s Legal Counsel and Board Secretary from 2012 to 2014, before being appointed to his current position as Acting Director General. He is also a Director on the African Parks (Zambia) Board of Directors, and sits on the Bangweulu Wetlands Management Board of Directors.

Tourism arrivals have grown from 700,000 in 2005 to over 800,000 in 2012. What role has ZAWA played in this increase?

First and foremost, ZAWA is the institution that is mandated to manage the national parks and the game management areas. Some 80% of tourism activities in Zambia are mainly wildlife based. ZAWA has played a major role because we provide security and law enforcement in our protected areas, and ensure that annual populations are maintained thanks to our activities.

ZAWA is a government-funded organization, but you also collect money from the visitors to the protected areas. How much money does this second cash inflow represent in your budget?

We have a monthly grant from the government that is not sufficient, but to sustain our operations the law empowers us to create our own revenue through the collection of park entry fees from people who come into the national parks. The operators in the national parks who organize game drives and safaris pay concession fees and other user fees to ZAWA. These sources of revenue vary and compromise roughly put between 72% and 80% of ZAWA's total budget. That forms the greatest part of our revenue; nevertheless, it is not enough to support our entire operation and the need to have more investments in these areas cannot be over emphasized.

What access issues does ZAWA face in terms of encouraging visitors?

What we have predominantly lacked is infrastructure in our protected areas. The government has embarked on an ambitious program of improving the infrastructure in the country, and in particular the road network, which will allow tourists to access more difficult areas even during the rainy season, as well as allowing us to be open year round.

Of all the transport infrastructure that the government is building, which is most important for ZAWA?

The road network is number one. There are national parks that have been undiscovered for a long time that will be connected through roads, and such areas will be open for tourism. And at the same time, we have people who are interested in operating businesses in those national parks. But to do so, we need better roads. If you do not have the access roads, people do not want to invest.

The government has recently lifted the ban on safari hunting in Zambia. What impact will this have on ZAWA's revenue?

Hunting was not banned in Zambia; it was suspended so that the country could take stock of the wildlife resources it had, and the government has now lifted the suspension. Hunting in Zambia takes place in what we call Game Management Areas (GMAs), and it is strictly forbidden in national parks. We have areas in GMAs that are zoned to allow human settlements and provide hunting blocks for safari and resident hunting to take place in accordance with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) standards. The decision to lift the suspension on safari hunting will increase our revenue, and it will benefit both the local communities and the operators themselves. Where we do not have healthy populations of certain species it will not be possible to hunt them, as they will not be on the quota.

Africa's lion population has decreased over the past decade. In this context what steps is ZAWA taking to protect it?

In Africa, Zambia has the third largest population of lions according to survey reports. And if I am not mistaken, we also rank third in terms of elephants among the elephant range states. The only time that problem animals are permitted to be hunted is when it is not possible to relocate them to other areas for safety. There are a number of conflicts between humans and lions, especially in Kafue National Park, as we have large populations in that ecosystem.