The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says donors are heavily funding Zambia’s wildlife sector while the government does little to develop the industry.

And the WWF has called for the proper utilisation of the country’s wildlife resources to bring an economic return for the country.

WWF Zambia country director Nachilala Nkombo, in an interview, protecting conservation parks would promote tourism in the country.

“Not enough is being done. Most of the funding that goes to the protection of wildlife is coming from donors, we ourselves as a country are not putting enough to protect the areas, to make sure that the animals are protected and we can maximize the tourism potential. Right now as a country, we have a huge debt that is in foreign currency, so if we promoted tourism, it means income that is coming in form of forex (foreign exchange) that can help us come out of this debt burden,” Nkombo said.

She said the WWF would lobby the government to find ways of leveraging the country’s tourism potential.

“Yes we are lobbying them [government], we are pushing them. Last week, we were meeting with the PS and we said ‘look, it doesn’t make sense for us to have so many wildlife resources but we are not maximising and leveraging on their economic potential’. A place like Rwanda, a small country that doesn’t have as many wildlife species as we do, last year made over $19 million just from guerilla tourism. [For] us, we have got lions, we have got elephants, we have got everything. God gave us everything but we are not putting in the investment that is needed to protect those animals and bring an economic return for the country. And secondly, the current business model where some national parks are making money but they are not able to retain enough of what they make to maintain the national parks, I think this has to change. Those are some of the views we have expressed to the government,” Nkombo said.

Meanwhile, Nkombo has cautioned the government against destroying the country’s natural resources while pursuing its infrastructure development path.

“So, as a country, two biggest drivers to climate change are around deforestation. You know as a country, we have a need for infrastructure but when we lose those trees at the level at which we are losing them, then we disturb the natural system that creates rainfall that helps us protect our water resources. So we need to have balanced development, we need to make sure that indeed we have infrastructure but it should not be at the cost of natural infrastructure because some natural infrastructure supports life. We need trees for oxygen, we need trees for water as well, and it’s part of the whole system that was actually created,” said Nkombo.

“Secondly, our agricultural practices are still unsustainable…we need to revolutionize our food system, we need to wake up to the fact that there is now a new context that we are operating. Agriculture cannot be business as usual, we need to make sure that investments in terms of agriculture support for smallholder farmers go directly into scaling up conservation agriculture, climate smart agriculture. We can’t be doing the same things we used to do before when we had lots of water, now we have less water so we need to have efficient ways in terms of using, managing and sharing the water resources. We need to have efficient ways of using land. We cannot be opening up pieces of land and then productivity does not go up because we are still using the same old methods.”