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BirdLife Zimbabwe

BirdLife Zimbabwe has a focus on birds, as the name suggests, but birds are just a part of the exceedingly complex web of biodiversity and therefore BirdLife has  become increasingly involved in many activities that support biodiversity in wider ways.

Julia Pierini, the C.E.O. gives us a summary of the wide-ranging work done by the organisation.

BIRDLIFE ZIMBABWE, ASSORTED PROJECTS

BirdLife Zimbabwe is a locally-based registered (PVO no.7/91), not-for-profit Nature Conservation Organisation promoting the survival of birds and biodiversity in Zimbabwe for both their intrinsic value and for the enjoyment of future generations. This is achieved through programmes to raise awareness of the need to protect species and the natural ecosystems inhabited by Zimbabwe`s birds and wildlife which we, humans are also an integral part of through policy, advocacy education and training.

BirdLife Zimbabwe has achieved several notable successes despite facing a challenging economic and socio-economic outlook. The organisation is playing an increasingly important role in the conservation sector in Zimbabwe, focusing on addressing threats to species and key habitats. Staff are well trained, new staff are being integrated into the organisation and capacitated and the organisation itself has increased its own institutional capacity by updating financial management and organisational policies and procedures.

The organisation has done exceptionally well in engaging with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWA), The Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, the Environmental Management Agency, Forestry Commission assisting these organisations to fulfil their mandates while improving relationships.

BLZ is currently implementing the following programmes:

Preventing Extinctions Program

Lillian’s Lovebird

BirdLife Zimbabwe fills a unique niche as it is the only organisation in Zimbabwe which focuses on the conservation of birds and their habitats.

BirdLife Zimbabwe’s Preventing Extinctions Programme is dedicated to the conservation of indigenous bird species and aims to ensure that the main pressures facing Zimbabwe’s threatened birds and their habitats (birds such as the Lilian’s Lovebird in the Zambezi River basin, the Blue Swallow in the Eastern Highlands, and vultures throughout the country).

Blue Swallow
Blue Swallow

BirdLife is involved in the identification and implementation of conservation actions, based on science-based research and monitoring. Where needed, sound scientific research and/or monitoring are undertaken on a selected number of threatened terrestrial birds in order to determine reasons for their conservation status and measures needed to reverse negative population trends. A large focus of work is currently on the vulture crisis with the development of vulture safe zones and also addressing a major threat to vultures and other wildlife i.e. poisoning by integrating anti-poisoning Rapid Response Mechanisms.

Vulture Protection

Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). BLZ is helping the Government of Zimbabwe to meet the legally binding obligations of the treaty e.g. BLZ was instrumental in the development of the Zimbabwe Vulture Action Plan that was signed off by the Zimbabwe Government in May 2019 and is currently being implemented.

KAZA Bird Conservation Sub-working Group

BirdLife Zimbabwe together with BirdLife Botswana and Birdwatch Zambia set up the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) Bird Conservation Sub Working with the support of the KAZA Secretariat and Government Partner States.

Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA)/Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) Programme

BirdLife Zimbabwe’s IBA/KBA Programme aims to conserve priority IBA/KBAs in Zimbabwe, through better management, threat mitigation, development of livelihood opportunities for local communities. A cornerstone of the programme has been mitigating threats (e.g. habitat loss, habitat degradation and habitat mismanagement) to IBA/KBAs. The programme’s approach has been to inform and support management of key habitats. The programme has also begun to manage the transition of IBAs to Key Biodiversity Areas.

Supporting wildlife economy and nature-based solutions through the development of Birding Routes

Birdwatching tourism has significant economic benefits that can translate into increased conservation of key conservation areas as well as benefits to local communities. BirdLife Zimbabwe is the lead implementer of the Great KAZA Birding Route across five countries: Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. BLZ also has been involved in capacitation of young community bird guides and in the development of a hiking/birding route in Chimanimani.

Local Environmental Engagement and Empowerment Progamme

Community engagement through use of participatory methods to actively promote awareness for implementation of conservation needs among IBA and KBA communities and implement sustainable livelihood investments that are economically sound. Learning and knowledge sharing through exchange of information and best practices for enhancing effectiveness and replicability of local actions

BirdLife International: Partnering at Regional, Continental and Global Level

Isdell Family working with BirdLife

BirdLife International is a global partnership of conservation organisations with a focus on the conservation of birds and other biodiversity. The partnership works together on shared priorities, policies and programmes of conservation action, exchanging skills, conservation gains and information exchange. By being a Partner of BirdLife International, BirdLife Zimbabwe has opportunities to work through an international alliance with similar objectives to improve bird and biodiversity conservation at local, national and international levels. A corollary of this is that the conservation objectives of members of the partnership are aligned for the mutual benefit of the whole and can be used to take conservation action at both a regional, continental and global level (eg. implementation of the BirdLife East African Flyway Initiative)

Advocacy and lobbying

Advocacy: Mining

BirdLife Zimbabwe promotes sustainable development by safeguarding Key Biodiversity Areas and Protected Areas from mining.

Advocacy: Harare Wetlands Programme

The goal of the programme is to increase the voice and participation of Harare residents in the management of wetlands so that further loss is halted and wetlands are protected, restored, retained intact and conserved thus providing the best opportunity for water provisioning to residents.

A three-tiered approach is being used to manage the programme:

Tier 1: National Government

Tier 2: Middle Management of Government (eg. City of Harare, EMA)

Tier 3: Communities (residents, CSOs)

  1. To influence the improvement of implementation, enforcement and strengthening of existing laws and regulations and the enactment of future laws and regulations that facilitate the protection of the environment.
  2. To escalate the engagement of the leadership of Harare (political parties, Members of Parliament, councilors, Ministers and OPC, Private sector (business) and build strong relationships through lobbying, awareness raising, capacity development and negotiations.
  3. To support institutions that are already engaged and tasked with the responsibility of providing water and protecting both wetlands and environment.
  4. To enhance the capacity of residents to become strategic actors in the management and preservation of wetlands in Harare through stewardship and to enforce transparency and accountability.

BIRDLIFE AND AVITOURISM

Avitourism in action

Avitourism is a niche tourism aspect pertaining to travel related to viewing birds in their natural environment. Despite being a very specific interest, birding is widely considered to be a fast-growing and widespread pastime. A study in South Africa in 2010 estimated that up to R2.25 billion was contributed to the local economy through avitourism, and that avitourists were some of the widest travelling and longest staying visitors to South Africa. Avitourists are also generally wealthy and will spend money in areas away from traditional tourism hotspots in pursuit of special species, especially rural areas. Avitourism is made up of both organized tours and self-led itineraries, depending on the type of tourist and budget. Avitourism supports many associated tourism service providers, such as lodges, restaurants, nature reserves, and other attractions. Bird conservation stands to benefit through avitourism by creating economic value through birds. Avitourism can be leveraged for significant community benefit if implemented with that goal in mind.

Birding Routes

Example of an Avitourism tour on offer

Birding routes are defined as a collection of avitourism attractions and service providers within an area that are designed into one geographically contained, cohesive, and traversable product. Proximate birding attractions can be used to synergistically market destinations to potential avitourists. Information attached to birding routes should include not only the special and attractive birds but also the various sites at which to observe them and the associated necessary service providers, such as accommodations, restaurants, and other attractions. Birding routes can range from a small collection of sites in a limited area to much larger regional routes.

 It is widely appreciated that tourism contributes significantly to the Gross Domestic Product of most developed countries. Post-pandemic, the travel industry is already beginning to gain momentum notwithstanding cost of living hikes. Globally, ecotourism travel is on the rise.  In Africa, however, there is scarce appreciation of the difference of between tourism and ecotourism and its niche products e.g. birdwatching tourism and of the financial and social opportunities that can be derived by developing this sector.

BirdLife Zimbabwe is working with partners (NGOs, national tourism authority, parks & Wildlife authority, Ministry of Environment, private sector tourism stakeholders) to develop the Great KAZA Birding Route spanning five countries: Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The project will promote KAZA’s birding assets through the development and packaging of a Great KAZA Birding Route comprising routes and access information, birding sites, birder-friendly accommodation, and specialised guides for domestic, regional, and international birdwatchers as a means to diversify the KAZA’s tourism offerings, minimise the effects of seasonality, and reduce pressure on ‘honey pot’ areas by distributing tourists to lesser visited areas

The project outcome will be the addition of a key niche tourism product for the KAZA TFCA as a means of product diversification that will promote the protection of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) and offer nature-based livelihood opportunities for communities in adjacent areas. With a value and livelihoods being attached to birds, there is a significantly greater chance that KBAs in KAZA, which host important bird populations, will be protected.

Hiking in Chimanimani

In June 2022, the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve application for Chimanimani Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) was approved. As a key stakeholder, BirdLife Zimbabwe has been working with Chimanimani Tourist Association (CTA) to assist in the training of Mountain Guides to service the ecotourism industry. For this purpose, BLZ has been supporting the MTGs and the CTA in the development of the Mbira Hiking/Birding Trail – a new tourism product aimed at putting Chimanimani KBA back on the Zimbabwe and world tourism maps. 

Julia Pierini, CEO Birdlife Zimbabwe

P O Box RVL 100, Runiville, Harare, Zimbabwe

35 Clyde Road, Eastlea, Harare

Tel: +263 24 2481 496

                  Email: birds@zol.co.zw  www.birdlifezimbabwe.org

Julia Pierini

C.E.O. of BirdLife, Zimbabwe

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