ECOCLUB

ISSN 1108-8931

INTERNATIONAL ECOTOURISM MONTHLY

Year 5-Issue 51, Aug 2003

The ECOCLUB Interview
Index of Interviews

Mr. Frans Stroebel
Member, Executive Committee,
Peace Parks Foundation

Mr. Frans Stroebel Mr. Frans Stroebel is an executive committee member and Chairman of the Peace Parks Foundation’s [PPF] fundraising committee. He is a former CEO of WWF-South Africa and at present a director of a number of private companies. He acts also as personal Assistant to the Chairman and Founder of PPF, Dr Anton Rupert.

About Peace Parks Foundation: The Peace Parks Foundation, a not-for–profit organisation, facilitates the establishment of transfrontier conservation areas, also called peace parks. The purpose of these parks is to employ conservation as a land-use option to the benefit of local people. It involves a unique level of international cooperation between participating countries, particularly on sensitive issues related to the opening of international boundaries. Support from the highest political levels are therefore imperative.

The protection of biodiversity, job creation through tourism and the support for peace and stability within regions are the main objectives. Six of the planned 22 peace parks in Southern Africa are already in an advanced stage of development. The international community has grasped this African concept and research has shown a potential 169 cross-border parks straddling 113 countries.

Peace Parks Foundation is an independent, neutral, NGO, funded by large, usually 'western', companies and government agencies. Has this model created problems, suspicion from African governments, local and regional, fear of 'neo-colonialism', or has it actually solved problems of mistrust between African governments while also reassuring donors that their funds are well-managed?

The three founders of the Foundation, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, Dr Anton Rupert and Dr Nelson Mandela have an international standing. Furthermore, all the heads of State in Southern Africa are patrons of PPF. The chief executives of their departments of environmental affairs/wildlife departments serve on our Conservation advisory council and they are privy to all the plans and objectives of PPF. There is therefore transparency in what we are doing.

While South Africa is the economic powerhouse of Africa, absolute equality reigns in the creation of transfrontier parks. Management committees, operational under a joint management board, which is overseen by a ministerial committee, oversee the development of such a park. The chairmanship of all of these rotate annually. Also bear in mind that no sovereignty is sacrificed in the creation of a transfrontier park. Every participating country retains absolute sovereignty of the part of the park that falls within its territory.

Southern African governments are in full support of the concept and commissioned a study by this Foundation to ascertain how many possible transfrontier conservation areas could be established in the region. Twenty-two peace parks have been identified and we are now starting the facilitation process in those areas where no memorandum of understanding have been signed yet.

Regarding funding, Prince Bernhard and Dr Rupert started the WWF’s 1001 Club three decades ago, whereby every club member had to donate $10 000 to create a financial base for WWF .It was that base that allows WWF today to spend $250-million per annum on conservation projects. PPF’s initial financial base comes from Club 21, a group who made $1million each available for our facilitation role. Club 21 stands for those concerned with conservation and peace in the 21st century. Donors respect these two gentlemen who puts a high premium on financial responsibility. For instance the German government is funding a SADC-approved project in Mozambique, with the provision that PPF manage that project, particularly the financial side of it.

From your publications, it is obvious that Peace Parks Foundation has Ecotourism in high esteem. In your experience, do governments in Southern Africa view Ecotourism as just the flavour of the month, an add-on opportunity to attract tourists and keep farmer communities happy with conservation, or do they also view it as an indispensable tool for sustainable development and a more equitable form of enterpreneurship?

Ecotourism in Africa is not new – it has been around for a long time. As a matter of fact Africa’s biggest competitive advantage in the world of tourism has been its wildlife, its big game like elephant, rhino, lions and buffalo, and will be so in the future. The difference being that the necessary infrastructure for it to boom is only now being created. The Foundation is encouraging governments to establish or upgrade airports close to the parks that will be ports of entry. It is also training wildlife managers, game rangers, field guides etc. at the Southern African Wildlife College and guesthouse managers at the SA Tourism College. These groups will in future be at the heart of economic stability and sustainability in our part of the world.

The importance of establishing TFCAs was recognised by the World Summit for Social Development held in Johannesburg last year and the final text, paragraph 64 reads:

“Support Africa’s efforts to attain sustainable tourism that contributes to social, economic and infrastructure development through the following measures:…

(b) Establishing and supporting national and cross-border conservation areas to promote ecosystem conservation according to the ecosystem approach, and to promote sustainable tourism.”

In Africa, the establishment of TFCAs is one of the projects that epitomises the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). President Mbeki the driver behind this program, said at the treaty signing ceremony of the Great Limpopo peace park on 9 December 2002: “ The birth of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park today, tells the citizens of our continent that the AU and NEPAD are not merely a set of good and grand ideas whose accomplishment will be in the distant future. This Transfrontier Park says that each passing day transforms the dream on an African Renaissance into reality.”

Community-OWNED Tourism within African Protected Areas, as opposed to tourism involving the local communities: Does it exist, is it successful? Is it financially viable? Does your foundation encourage it, or do you rather prefer to deal with individual entrepreneurs in tourism, and in fact women, and why?

Because tourism in general and ecotourism in particular are the biggest job creators in the world, the Foundation is absolutely encouraging all stakeholders to play its part. This is the only way to ensure the sustainability of the transfrontier conservation parks. The Foundation is assisting by training African women to become guesthouse managers/owners and entrepreneurs at the SA Tourism College. One of the partners of PPF in this project is Business Partners, a Small Business Development Corporation.

Proof that community-owned tourism works, is the Makuleke community that own part of Kruger National Park. The Makuleke people reclaimed the northernmost reaches of the Kruger National Park (land between the Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers) from which they were removed in 1969 by the previous government to make this area part of the Kruger National Park. The settlement of that claim recently included an undertaking from the Makuleke community that the land would remain in conservation and agreement that the community could, within certain criteria, develop their own accommodation facilities for its tourist potential. We trained their first guest house managers in 2002. They benefit successfully today from that special relationship with the National Park authorities.

Are local stakeholders represented formally in policy making within Peace Parks, or is an indirect, consensus-building approach followed, according to the particular circumstances of each Peace Park?

Every peace park differs. For each park however an international treaty binding the signatories to the treaty is drafted. The local stakeholders are consulted and included, sometimes by name in the treaty.This is the only way to ensure sustainability. As an example, Article III of the treaty to be signed by the governments of Namibia and South Africa to establish the |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Conservation Park is quoted:

Article 3

Rights of Stakeholders

The Parties undertake –

(1) to recognise and respect the enforceable rights of all Stakeholders in their countries;

(2) to enter into such contractual arrangements with Stakeholders as may be required in terms of their domestic law so as to give real protection to the rights in sub Article (1); and

(3) to take appropriate steps, in compliance with their applicable domestic law, to designate land that will constitute the proposed Transfrontier Park.

It seems that many of Peace Parks Foundation agreements have so far depended on brilliant personal diplomacy at the highest level - so what happens when leaders, change? Is there an international / national legal vacuum for transfrontier protected areas, or are laws being developed on an international level?

 

The transfrontier parks are established by way of international treaties, thus the change of a government or of PPF’s leadership will not affect the legal standing of these documents and parks. These treaties also refer to international conventions which the signatory parties adhere too.

In the case of PPF itself, plans for succession to the present leaders are already in place. This is just normal good corporate governance.

Where does the Peace Parks Foundation stand on "Hunting Tourism"? Has your position created friction with local communities and how did you tackle it?

The Foundation trains members of the local communities to become inter alia wildlife managers or guesthouse managers in order to have alternative methods of income. While every park is different, the Limpopo National Park for instance, where the Mozambican government has mandated PPF to assist the development, provision has been made for a wilderness zone, a tourism zone and a “support” zone, where communities have total land use of the area. It does not exclude hunting. It is for those communities to decide. Obviously hunting tourism will not be allowed in the wilderness area or the National Park proper.

Does Peace Parks Foundation compete, or rather work together with other international Protected Area networks, in areas such as fund raising? Would it matter if it competed, or does competition, even in this area, produce better results for conservation?

Dr Rupert recently said the following:

“Peace parks or its concept do not belong to one individual or organisation. It is an ideal set to improve the lives of so many people and to enhance biodiversity protection. This is a mammoth task, but the benefits outweigh the efforts by far. We need to take hands through partnerships to really have an impact on the future of our region.”

We work therefore closely with other organizations like WWF and Pro-Natura. We believe in partnerships. Healthy competition is anyhow vital to develop new ideas for growth.

Border areas, in Africa, but also outside Africa are notorious for violence and for their own rule of law. So how does a Peace Park defend itself against poachers, smugglers, armed factions? Is it necessary to have a sort of a standing "peace park army"? And what happens to a "peace park" when war erupts?

When the Berlin Treaty was signed in 1884, African territories were dealt like a pack of cards to colonial powers. The national boundaries then proclaimed cut across tribal and clan groupings as well as animal migration routes, fragmenting eco-systems and destroying biodiversity. Africa’s freedom was shattered – an injustice that Peace Parks Foundation, is seeking to rectify. The dream is to once again create an Africa where wildlife can roam freely across international boundaries, thereby creating job opportunities to the benefit of local communities. This is why we are focusing on capacity building through training.

Dr Rupert has always pleaded for peace between man and man and between man and nature – this is what peace parks set out to do.

In the event of a war, the Foundation underwrites the IUCN guidelines as contained in its Draft Code For Transboundary Protected Areas In Times Of Peace And Armed Conflict

Conservation Donors, are they all benevolent environmentalists and humanitarians, in your experience, or are business interests sometimes too near the surface? Do you screen your Donors, or does the end justify the means?

The Foundation has not found it necessary yet to screen any of its donors, as they are all individuals, foundations and corporations with a high credibility and who are clearly concerned with the quality of life and the future of that quality. The donors also insist on regular reporting on the implementation of the projects they have funded – proof of their seriousness about the project, not just the image of the donor.

Peace Parks are already and widely acknowledged as a success in Africa. What changes to your model if any, would be required for Peace Parks to be successful in the post-September 11 world, in places such as Asia and the Middle East, that are rather uneasy about ceding authority to international NGOs?

On the contrary. Asia, Europe, Latin America are following the African model for establishing transfrontier parks precisely because no authority is ceded. Every participating country maintains its sovereignty and the model operates on a series of partnerships between government and the private sector. The beauty of the concept is that it can be adapted to local circumstances with the broad basis being: Peace between man and man and peace between man and nature.

Which one of the multitude of Peace Park Foundation -supported projects would you select as the most important, and why?

The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park is our flagship project. It is the laboratory for other parks. Furthermore it is set to become the world’s greatest animal kingdom. It provides an opportunity for a multitude of donors and stakeholders:

Those that want to protect animals can donate money to translocate the excess animals from Kruger Park to Limpopo National Park on the Mozambique side. Kruger Park for instance must cull annually nearly one thousand elephants because of limited space. For the next five decades at least no culling will be necessary.

Those that want to donate money to create jobs can donate money to one of the colleges – the Southern African Wildlife College and the SA College for Tourism. The capacity needs of Southern Africa are great.

Those that want to donate money to develop a new park can do so to develop an area almost three times the size of Switzerland. Private investors will have opportunities to obtain accommodation rights and build game lodges.

Above all however, we would prefer your readers to rather donate their time as tourists and invite them to visit our parks. Such visits will create and support employment. Africa is not looking for handouts. We want to develop our own future.

Is there anything else you would like to add: Upcoming Events, future projects?

Yes, the treaty establishing the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld peace park between South Africa and Namibia is to be signed in the next few months. Anybody who loves wide open spaces will find here a remarkable paradise.

An international agreement to develop the Limpopo/Shashe peace park between South Africa and Botswana will be signed at the World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa in September. In this park is the latest World Heritage site announced only a week ago.

We shall translocate a variety of 1 300 animals from Kruger Park to Limpopo National Park this month – out of a total 6 000 over the next three years; and 50 more elephants will be translocated in September.

Finally we hope to see a peace park in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea realised. One still finds the Amur leopard and Siberian tiger in that area. The peace implications go without saying!! Why not a peace park also in Kashmir and a peace park in the Golan Heights? We believe that he who does not believe in miracles is not a realist.

Thank you very much.

Contact Details

Mr. Frans Stroebel
Member, Executive Committee, Peace Parks Foundation
Website: http://www.peaceparks.org


Find the complete list of ECOCLUB Interviews here

Top

Home|Ecolodges|News|Shop|Community|Chat|Library|Events|Advertise|Join|Recommend

Copyright © 1999-2003 ECOCLUB S.A. All Rights Reserved.