Designating boundaries is not sufficient to safeguard protected areas. National parks are being exploited by extraction companies, while other protected areas have become the hunting grounds of poachers.
The growing diversity of stakeholders seeking access to protected areas, which have limited financial resources, further increases their management complexities.
That is where the general management plan comes in.
As its name implies, a general management plan is a document that outlines how a protected area is to be managed. It sets out the decision-making framework, objectives to be met, resources to be applied and actions to be implemented over a given period of time. While it may appear inconsequential, the general management plan is in fact incredibly valuable to wildlife authorities and other stakeholders, for it ensures consistency in how a protected area is managed and provides direction, from a day-to-day, operational level all the way up to the ministerial level.
The park management plans that are developed with AWF support also always incorporate a business plan, outlining the ways in which a protected area can generate income, such as through park entry fees or other tourism efforts—thereby ensuring long-term sustainability for these sites.
At the request of South Sudan’s Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife Conservation, AWF helped develop such a plan for Nimule National Park and its buffer zone. Nimule is a picturesque park bordered by the Nile River to its east and marked by hills and streams. It is the only park in South Sudan where elephants are easily seen. As of a few years ago, however, fewer than 200 tourists were coming to Nimule.
In November, AWF and the Ministry celebrated the government’s signing of the Nimule general management plan—the first-ever management plan signed in South Sudan. Now comes fundraising to enable implementation, which includes training, providing equipment and building scout outposts. As political tensions ease in the country and the management plan is fully implemented, Nimule hopes to generate enough revenue in several years’ time to support park operations and provide benefits to the surrounding communities.
AWF is similarly working with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to develop a new general management plan for Hwange National Park, one of Zimbabwe’s most important parks. The park is famous for its large populations of elephants and large carnivores, which attract a significant number of visitors each year.
Economic decline over the past decade had resulted in a revenue deficit for Zimbabwe’s parks authority. Like Nimule’s management plan, wildlife-based revenuegenerating ideas will be incorporated into the plan for Hwange, allowing the parks authority to maximize revenues from this ecologically important park and realize returns from investment in conservation and sound park management.
Our commitment to planning has seen the development of management plans for numerous other protected areas across the continent. This will go a long way in circumventing long-term problems in protected area management—while at the same time helping to achieve our broad conservation goals.
Mayu is director of content and messaging for AWF, responsible for AWF's print and online content, collateral and overall organizational messaging. At home, she divides her time between being a tyrant to her family and napping on the living room couch. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Mayu has nearly 20 years' experience in communications, storytelling and writing.
AWF Blogs bring you to the critical landscapes we work in, where conservation benefits both wildlife and people alike. The blogs are written by our staff - men and women who have dedicated their lives to Africa's wildlife, people and wild lands.
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