Monkey-Bay, Malawi, 06th November, 2022 (AEJ) - The African Development Bank (AfDB) under the Promotion of Investments and Competitiveness in the Tourism Sector (PICTS) project has reached out to surrounding communities on the peripheral of Lake Malawi National Park, awarding business grants to the tune of K35 million through the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW).
Speaking during the grant disbursement ceremony, DNPW Principal Parks and Wildlife Officer, Alex Chunga, said they thought of providing alternative livelihoods to communities living around protected areas as one way of empowering them economically in order to deter them from engaging in illegal activities that can destroy endemic plant and animal species that are important resources for this fresh water protected area.
According to Chunga, communities are major stakeholders in the conservation and management of protected areas, hence there a need to empower them economically so that they see and value the benefits being accrued in conservation of natural resources.
“As a department, we work hand in hand with local communities living around protected areas so when we are engaging them, we advise them to stop going into protected areas to poach and engage in other illegal harvesting of natural resources. In order to completely stop them from illegal activities, we have to provide alternatives for livelihoods and today we are providing grants so that they don’t engage into illegal activities instead they should engage in businesses that will empower them economically hence taking them away from illegal activities that are destructive to the protected area,” Chunga explained on the sidelines of the event.
PICTS Project Coordinator, Herbert Chihana, highlighted that this initiative is in line with the Malawi government policy of helping rural communities to make sure that they are resilient in terms of household economic development.
Chihana added that they have put in place a system that will help them to monitor if the money is being used for the intended purpose.
“We have systems on the ground whereby in terms of procurement we will need three quotations to be sourced. We have a procurement specialist who is following this but above all we have auditors who will be visiting these communities not only to teach them business management skills but also to monitor if the money is being used for the intended purposes,” Chihana said in an interview during the grant award ceremony.
Chairperson of the grants awardees, Jordan Kanyerere, thanked DNPW for the initiative saying this will change both their livelihoods and communities through economic transformation and empowerment.
“In our groups we already operate businesses. As such these grants received today will help us to buy the required resources that we were lacking and together with the acquired business skills will help us to achieve our intended goals,” observed Kanyerere in an interview. . Some of the grant’s recipients are as follows; Lulanga honey production group which has received K2,297,250.00; Mape honey production K2,297,250.00; Monkey tour guides association have received K7,700.000.00; Nkopola safari camp site that has received K8,190,000.00 while Sustainable Cape Maclear has received K15,165,965.00 for their activities.
Lake Malawi National Park is the first fresh water protected area which was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1984. The park is unique because of the cichlids species that are over 1,000 endemic to the lake only and no-where else in the world. This therefore calls for the proper conservation status. The grants are expected to play that sustainable management role to save this biodiversity hotspot.