The long-term preservation and protection of Matusadona National Park can only be achieved through the active participation and engagement with local communities and local authorities. The overarching objective is to implement a strong community engagement programme to create a firm foundation on which the relationship between the local communities and park management can thrive. This will ensure that local communities understand, benefit from and support the protection of this vast wilderness area. The three key strategies that will be used to achieve this objective are community engagement, the development of education opportunities and enterprise development.
It is essential that the local communities are heard and their questions, concerns and needs are addressed. This will be dependent on a community engagement team who will create awareness and foster knowledge among community members about wildlife conservation and its benefits.
Education is another key factor and the aim is to provide quality education that will support economic and social transformation while raising awareness of environmental issues. The provision of school facilities and learning materials will enable many community members to become employable and competitive in the work place. Environmental education will also be emphasized through community and school visits to the park and the creation of wildlife clubs in schools. This will ultimately facilitate an attitude of change and awareness which will not only secure the future of the park but create one where both people and wildlife can thrive. First bursaries were awarded in 2021 to ten disadvantaged students, and the Ministry of Education supported the first school visits to the park. In the same year, 200 bicycles were donated to schoolchildren who live four kilometers or more from their school through a partnership with World Bicycle Relief. In June, two radio programs were broadcast discussing education and wildlife programmes, reaching thousands of listeners.
Enterprise development will be achieved through the growth of the tourism industry in Matusadona National Park as it will not only create jobs but also stimulate the local economy. Income generating projects, such as honey production, will be explored and identified and will provide an alternative to the dependence on resources from the park.
Sustainable development and good management of tourism will be a critical revenue generator for the park, and the surrounding communities. Well-run tourism can provide for an increase in jobs, and help create a conservation-led economy, increasing the value and buy-in of maintaining Matusadona as a protected area long into the future.
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