Under a conducive environment, tourism opens the floodgates of economic activity and reduces levels of poverty among those directly involved in it.
Which is why, wherever possible, countries spare some land for environmental conservation efforts. The establishment of game reserves, national parks, nature sanctuaries, among others, forms part of such efforts.
It is for this reason that Malawi, not to be left behind, runs its own game reserves, national parks and nature sanctuaries. It is our little, but sincere, contribution to world efforts.
Unfortunately, misfortune, in the form of tsetse flies, has struck one of the country’s game reserves— Nkhotakota— leaving surrounding communities in Nkhotakota, Mzimba, Salima and Ntchisi districts worried.
A typical example is Ntchisi District, where cattle have started showing signs of sleeping sickness, meaning that things are getting out of hand.
Of course, we are comforted by the words of representatives of African Parks— which has an agreement with the government to run the park— that they are trying their best to put the situation under control. Among other strategies, they fixed 90 tsetse fly targets to trap the flies but elephants pulled them down. Recently, they identified sites through which they can trap the flies.
We do not know the specifics of the agreement between the government and African Parks; so, maybe African Parks is working within its mandate by setting traps.
At the same time, we realise that park officials can only control the situation in their catchment area— which is the reserve. We cannot expect African Parks to control tsetse flies in surrounding communities in the affected districts. It is the government’s responsibility to do so because, if not tamed, sleeping sickness may spread to these areas and negatively impact national development.
Of course, we are deeply sensible of the difficulty of reconciling African Parks’ interests in the reserve with the health needs of community members who do not live in the reserve it looks after. That is why we want the government to come in.
Additionally, if the government remains in its cocoon, sectors such as those of tourism may be negatively impacted— which would be bad news because other sectors, notably agriculture, are under siege due to, for example, the anti-tobacco smoking lobby.
We, therefore, do not expect the government to, for the umpteenth time, baffle us with its characteristic and perfectly aimed irony of waiting for things to get out of hand while pretending to act on the situation.
The truth is that there is no time to waste. Tsetse flies are on rampage and it may not be long before sleeping sickness shifts posts from animals to people, or attack both. We do not have the luxury of time.
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