Gray countries with texture denote areas of future engagement.
Wildlife knows no boundaries. So AWF has defined areas across the continent that are critical to conservation. These Priority Landscapes can cover public and private lands alike and often cross borders.
4,664,645 hectares (18,010 sq. mi.)
Recognized by humans as three distinct countries but by wildlife as a single vast ecosystem, the Zambezi Heartland is a prime example of AWF’s landscape-level conservation efforts. This Heartland spans parts of Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The Zambezi River, tributaries, acacia floodplain, and interconnecting wetlands are home to many species of plants and animals, including hippos, elephants, black rhinos, wild dogs, cheetah, and lions.
When wild lands become farmland, elephants have a feast.
Growing human populations and sprawling settlements are disrupting wildlife movement patterns in the Zambezi Heartland. The 40,000 elephants there are, in turn, invading communities’ land and raiding crops that people depend on for their livelihoods. This tension hurts both people and wildlife, putting elephants in the Zambezi Heartland at greater risk for losing their habitat and being poached.
Unsustainable resource use threatens the Zambezi River.
Poverty and food insecurity force many people in the Zambezi Heartland to turn to unsustainable activities for income. Slash-and-burn farming, charcoal burning, quarry stone crushing, and overfishing all degrade the Zambezi River ecosystem. The upper part of the river alone feeds 300,000 people and harbors tilapia, tigerfish, and the great Vundu catfish, among other species. But, the degradation of the river means that, eventually, it may no longer be able to support wildlife, tourism, or local people.
Our solutions to the challenges in the Zambezi Heartland:
Make elephants at home inside and outside national parks.
African Wildlife Foundation worked with communities to designate specific zones for wildlife corridors, conservation, human settlement and agriculture, and fishing. Zoning reduces human-elephant conflict and, better yet, has created two new elephant protection areas: the 28,000-hectare Mutulan'ganga Forest Reserve in Zimbabwe and the 16,000-hectare Shange Conservancy in Zambia. AWF has also supported projects in and between Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia and Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe, keeping the gentle giants safe as they move between the two parks.
Deploy goats and fish to combat degradation.
To create sustainable income opportunities, AWF helped establish two cooperatives that manage resources for the benefit of wildlife and local communities. The Simbamba Goat Producer and Marketing Cooperative in Zambia includes 90 households. AWF trained members in improved husbandry techniques and provided two goats for each household’s herd in exchange for a $10 registration fee. The cooperative sells the goats in local and urban markets, earning valuable income for its members. The Ngwena Commercial Fishing Cooperative in Zimbabwe, which employs sustainable fishing methods to protect the Zambezi River, is a similar community conservation enterprise. Both cooperatives help members earn income without overexploiting natural resources in the Zambezi Heartland, keeping the river and surrounding lands healthy so they can support diverse wildlife.
Explore some of our related projects.
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