Set alongside the tranquil and unspoilt fishing waters of the Upper Zambezi, Machenje Fishing Lodge is a community-owned tourism facility on the southern edge of the Sekute Community Conservation Area, a key part of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.
Machenje has been built with aid from the African Wildlife Fund (AWF). The Lodge is a community owned project which has been facilitated by the AWF in setting up a trust in the Sekute community to build eco-friendly projects that help enrich the residents of Sekute by providing jobs, money to help build community based projects which in the long term will conserve the local area.
Working with Chief Sekute via the Sekute Community Development Trust, additional land was secured on the southern edge of the Sekute Community Conservation Area for the development of Machenje. While this is just one component of AWFs broader relationship with the Sekute Community, it helped secure land for the movement of wildlife from Botswana into southern Zambia.
At the opening of the lodge in 2013, Patrick Bergin, CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation said "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. 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 between the Sekute Community Development Trust and Taonga Safaris is based on the African Wildlife Foundation’s experience and expertise in conservation enterprises – businesses that are premised on conserving land and protecting wildlife while simultaneously generating income for the local community. With more than 15 years of experience in conservation enterprise, AWF has developed a toolkit based on lessons learned and best practices, allowing communities such as Sekute to find value in conservation through revenue-generating opportunities. While many of these opportunities are based on the wildlife tourism common in Africa, AWF implements other enterprises, such as livestock and honey production. AWF utilises a systematic methodology to identify the conservation objective and assess the community’s capacities and needs to determine the applicable conservation enterprise. It also acts as a broker and community representative when a private sector partner is called for to ensure the highest capacity for success.
"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."
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.
The Zambezi River is the forth longest river in Africa (after the Nile, Congo, and Niger) and the largest to discharge into the Indian Ocean from the African continent...ZAMBEZI