Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Michael Usi says government is reviewing all concessional agreements for improved management of wildlife reserves and other places of interest.
On Wednesday, he briefed journalists in Lilongwe on conservation work by Peace Parks Foundation and its support to conservation in Malawi.
He said: “We have big budgets that are benefitting animals, what about the people surrounding those facilities?
“We need to ensure that as we are conserving our parks and game reserves, we should also consider the welfare of people around the facilities.
The minister said it is only ethical that the government and its partners prioritise the interests of Malawians, including communities surrounding tourist attractions such as game reserves and national parks.
“This is a people-centred government, so the review is in no way trying to stop the management but rather looks at areas that need improvement,” he said.
Usi commended his ministry for improving the management of wildlife reserves, but called for transparency and accountability in conservation efforts.
Peace Parks Foundation is discussing with government a concession to jointly manage Nyika National Park and Vwaza Wildlife Reserve.
According to its senior projects manager Arrie Van Wyk, the agreement will be a tool for mobilising resources for improvements of the two tourist destinations in the Northern Region.
However, he said poor roads remain one of the major challenges affecting Nyika, especially during the rainy season.
Van Wyk said: “We plan to speak to the Immigration Department to consider establishing a permanent immigration office at Chilinda Camp in the national park so that local and international tourists can fly directly to Nyika. This will make it accessible.
The foundation plans to invest $20 million in the next 15 to 20 years to develop the country’s largest national park.
“This will help to manage the park and market it properly and make it sustainable over the years through sound business,” Van Wyk explained.
He said the planned joint venture will involve the foundation, government and the local private players to scale up investment and knowledge sharing in the running wildlife reserves as business.
This will help the foundation “leave it in the hands of Malawians”, he said.
So far, Malawi signed similar concessions with African Parks to manage Liwonde National Park as well as Nkhotakota and Majete wildlife reserves.