Masvingo — Government has initiated talks with the European Union to rectify the skewed ownership structure at the wild-life rich Save Valley Conservancy in the south east Lowveld, which is dominated by foreign players.
The majority of about 27 properties at Save Valley are run by operators from EU-member countries, which signed the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAS) with Government.
Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Senator Josaya Hungwe on Monday said engagement with the EU to involve more indigenous players at Save Valley has already started. He said Government wanted more indigenous representation at the wildlife-rich conservancy under the wildlife-based land reform programme.
“We have already agreed with representatives of the EU to visit Save Valley conservancy so that we can have an on the ground assessment of the situation obtaining. We expressed reservations as Government over the skewed ownership pattern at the conservancy where only two properties out of about 27 are indigenous-owned,” said Senator Hungwe.
“I am happy that we held fruitful talks and a joint Government/EU delegation will be going to Save Valley in the coming weeks to see how best we can rectify the problem of skewed ownership pattern that is not favourable to indigenous people.”
Senator Hungwe said more indigenous operators will be given properties at Save Valley conservancy in the near future.
“We will introduce more indigenous black players in line with the wildlife-based land reform policy because the current situation is not fair, but we will make sure that only those who have the requisite expertise in wildlife conservancy operations benefit,” said Senator Hungwe.
Senator Hungwe also said the EU was still committed to financing rehabilitation of the perimeter fence around Save Valley to stem humans/wildlife conflicts.
The 350kms long perimeter fence was vandalised, a situation that has seen wild animals such as elephants and predators like lions straying into communities adjacent the park where they have caused damage to both property and in some cases human life.
“Absolutely, the EU is very much interested in the Save Valley perimeter fencing project and they have already told us that the money is there, so we are looking forward to the start of the fencing project,” he said.
The EU has already availed a $20 million war chest for the erection of the Save Valley perimeter fence and development of irrigation schemes to enable communities around the wildlife-rich conservancy to achieve food self-sufficiency.
Government recently announced that it has started re-planning at Save Valley to demarcate a new boundary at the conservancy after some properties were invaded by landless people at the height of farm occupations at the turn of the millennium.