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African Wildlife Foundation Celebrates Opening of Community-Owned Conservation Lodge in Zambia

  • Tuesday, August 13, 2013
  • Kazangula District, Zambia
African Wildlife Foundation's Machenje Fishing Lodge in Zambia's Kazangula District. Photo by: Nasson Tembo

African Wildlife Foundation's Machenje Fishing Lodge in Zambia's Kazangula District. Photo by: Nasson Tembo

Machenje Fishing Lodge offers innovative model for communities that may benefit from conservation-driven enterprise

KAZUNGULA DISTRICT, Zambia, August 13, 2013—The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Taonga Safaris, and residents of the Sekute Chiefdom today celebrated the opening of Machenje Fishing Lodge, a community-owned conservation enterprise located about 60 km outside of Livingstone, Zambia. Zambia’s Minister of Tourism and Arts, Hon. Sylvia T. Masebo, MP, officially opened the lodge.

With its picturesque location along the Zambezi River, in close proximity to some of Southern Africa’s most famous attractions, including Victoria Falls, the sport-fishing lodge is an ideal tourist destination for those seeking either a tranquil African getaway or an adventure-filled trip. More notably, Machenje is the product of an innovative partnership between a local community and a private sector tourism operator, formed to enhance conservation in a region that boasts some of the largest herds of elephant on the African continent.

“This region is home to a quarter of Africa’s elephants and has one of the most important terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems in Africa. It has also undergone tremendous development in the past several years, intensifying competition for natural resources and conflict between people and wildlife,” said Patrick Bergin, CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation. “With Machenje Fishing Lodge, we are demonstrating that it’s possible to manage development in such a way that local communities receive direct economic benefits, lands are secured for wildlife, and natural resources are sustainably managed over the long term.”

The Kazungula District of Zambia, where the Sekute Chiefdom is located, lies close to the borders of Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. Elephants and other wildlife regularly move between these countries to get to various habitats, but over time, unplanned human settlements had disrupted some of the wildlife corridors that connected these disparate protected areas. In exchange for AWF developing Machenje Fishing Lodge and providing other community and economic benefits—including rebuilding a primary school and providing employment opportunities for local residents as wildlife scouts—the Sekute community agreed to set aside more than 20,000 hectares of land strictly for conservation. AWF helped the Chiefdom establish the Sekute Community Development Trust (the Trust) to oversee management of the conservation lands.

AWF and the leadership of the Sekute Chiefdom are looking at Machenje as a long-term strategy to generate revenue for the community—through the Trust—to use toward local development projects. Under an agreement brokered by AWF, the Sekute community owns the land and lodge, while the private sector partner manages the daily operations. A portion of revenues are paid out to the community as part of a benefit-sharing agreement; the operator will also employ local residents for several permanent staff positions, with temporary staff to be engaged on a need basis.

The partnership arrangement has been hailed by the Hon. Ms. Masebo, who previously visited Machenje Fishing Lodge during its final phase of construction, as a model for communities to potentially benefit from conservation-driven enterprises. “We have an example of a viable community-based conservation enterprise model involving communities in partnership with the private sector that contributes to tourism development and wildlife conservation,” the Hon. Ms. Masebo remarked in her speech at the opening ceremony.

Noting that the presence of such a significant elephant population in the region can occasionally result in human–wildlife conflict, the Minister added, “It is through community-based conservation enterprises such as Machenje Fishing Lodge that local communities like Sekute are able to turn that ‘burden’ of living with elephants into an opportunity.”

Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, also visited the lodge in early August to learn more about how its revenue-sharing mechanisms protect the continent’s largest elephant population.

“This arrangement is based on more than 15 years of experience that the African Wildlife Foundation has accrued in establishing community-owned conservation enterprises. By working with local communities to identify genuine income opportunities, it’s possible to establish enterprises that provide significant revenue for communities while also ensuring that Africa’s wildlife legacy survives,” noted Brian McBrearity, director of conservation enterprise for the African Wildlife Foundation.

Critical to the success of such an arrangement is partnering with a private sector partner committed to the idea of community involvement. Taonga Safaris, a Zambia-based tourism operator that specializes in river cruises and adventure activities for tourists, has a record of proactively engaging with local communities.

“Machenje Fishing Lodge offers a perfect experience for sport fishers wanting to test their wits against our continent’s famed tigerfish,” said Andrew Simpson, director of Taonga Safaris. “What drew us to working with the African Wildlife Foundation and the Sekute Chiefdom, however, was not just the lodge’s tourism appeal but also the fact that the local community would benefit from this enterprise. Too often, those living nearest Zambia’s greatest wildlife tourist attractions have been left out of those successes. It will be good for the entire country if more communities like the Sekute Chiefdom derived benefits from living near wildlife.”

From AWF’s perspective, there is an additional benefit in that the lodge fosters greater community appreciation for conservation. Knowing that the region’s elephant population helps attract tourism business to the lodge, community members will have greater incentive to protect them. Lodge revenues will additionally fund the salaries of the wildlife scouts who protect the community conservation land and the elephants inhabiting that area. Further, with Machenje’s emphasis on sport fishing, the revenue generated from the camp will raise awareness among community members of the value of maintaining fish populations and the use of proper fishing methods.

“Our home is rich in natural resources and wildlife, but neither will last long if we do not manage it well,” said Chief Sekute of the Sekute Chiefdom. “Conservation has been a way for the people of this Chiefdom to gain access to education, receive employment and, now, earn community income from owning a beautiful tourism lodge. Even better is that in the process, we are making sure that our children, and our children’s children, will be able to enjoy the beauty of this landscape, just as we have been able to.”

Machenje Fishing Lodge is one of the many conservation lodges that AWF has established in Africa as a way of deriving economic benefits for local people and thereby incentivizing conservation. “Across Africa, communities have been left out of the conservation conversation,” observed Nasson Tembo, director of African Wildlife Foundation’s Kazungula landscape, where Machenje is located. “The African Wildlife Foundation understands that for conservation to have long-lasting impact, it must be done in full partnership with local communities. Machenje Fishing Lodge is just one of many conservation projects the African Wildlife Foundation has undertaken with local communities in the Kazungula landscape for the long-term good of this region’s people, wildlife, and ecosystems.”

In addition to the African Wildlife Foundation and Taonga Safaris, funding for construction of Machenje Fishing Lodge was provided by: the Embassy of Finland – Lusaka, the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi, KfW Development Bank, Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, United Nations Development Programme, UNDP–GEF Small Grants, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Machenje Fishing Lodge comprises five round, platform-based rooms built from locally sourced materials—all with river views. It is accessible by road seasonally and by water, with convenient access to Livingstone airport. In addition to sport fishing, guests at Machenje can also visit Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Parks in Zimbabwe, Chobe National Park in Botswana, and Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, home to several white rhino.

The lodge’s opening comes just in time, as the 20th General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, which is being hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe, will take place later this month, 24 – 29 August 2013. In addition, the lodge will be one of the sites featured on the meeting’s technical tour.

To book a stay at Machenje Fishing Lodge, please call +260 977 333184

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About African Wildlife Foundation

Founded in 1961, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is a leading conservation organization focused solely on the African continent. AWF’s programs and conservation strategies are based on sound science and designed to protect both the wild lands and wildlife of Africa and ensure a more sustainable future for Africa’s people. Since its inception, AWF has protected endangered species and land, promoted conservation enterprises that benefit local African communities, and trained hundreds of African nationals in conservation—all to ensure the survival of Africa’s unparalleled wildlife heritage. AWF is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Kenya and registered as a 501(c)(3) in the United States. For more information, visit: www.awf.org

About AWF’s Kazungula Landscape

With a local office in Livingstone, Zambia, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is working in the Kazungula landscape, an area covering approximately 90,000 sq. km and comprising parts of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The landscape is home to a quarter of Africa’s elephants; features one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls; and forms one of the most important terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems in Africa.

About the Sekute Chiefdom

The Sekute Chiefdom is a community of 10,000 residents located in the Kazungula District of southern Zambia. Located near the borders of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, the Sekute Chiefdom serves as an important passageway for elephants crossing between countries. In 2009, in a landmark agreement with AWF, the community set aside 20,000 hectares of land for conservation, in exchange for a suite of socioeconomic benefits, including the establishment of Machenje Fishing Lodge.

About Taonga Safaris

Established in 1993, Taonga Safaris is a Zambian-owned tourism operator specializing in river-based safari excursions, such as sport fishing and sunset boat cruises, but is also involved in game drives within Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, the home of the mighty Victoria Falls. Taonga Safaris has always had a passion for working with the local communities; it has previously been involved in other community-based projects.


African Wildlife Foundation
Mayu Mishina
[email protected]
+1 202 939 3324 

Taonga Safaris
Andrew Simpson
[email protected] 

+260 977 333184

Download the full press release, photos, and speeches given at the opening ceremony by AWF CEO Patrick Bergin and Minister Masebo.


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