Zimbabwe’s Charara Safari Area, managed by the Zimbabwe National Parks Authorities, was in a state of neglect and vastly under-resourced prior to the Zambezi Society (ZamSoc) coming in to support and strengthen operations.
Charara is located just across the border from Zambia’s Chiawa Game Management Area, was supported by the conservation and education-focused Conservation Lower Zambezi, who brought solar power and energy storage to the region in partnership with Empowered by Light.
ZamSoc is using a holistic, sustainable community approach to improving the situation for the Park’s personnel and the communities surrounding the Park. In particular, it works to repair efforts by tobacco companies who encouraged local residents to cut down trees in order to create more tobacco fields. ZamSoc is working with women from the community to grow saplings for reforestation efforts that will create a green buffer zone around the national park.
To support ZamSoc’s efforts, Empowered by Light will install solar and energy storage for 2 tented ranger camps, providing power for a water pump, lights, radios and cold storage. A concurrent project will bring solar power and energy storage for 4 schools benefitting 1,200 students, a key to building long term economic stability for communities living near the park.
The solar energy systems for the two tented ranger camps and schools can be done in phases, with an average of $30,000 per installation. These systems can also power an adjacent “business center” at each school, with a computer and phone-charging room used by adults who would pay using mobile banking, with the proceeds used to cover the maintenance and operational costs of the solar systems.
With tourism down due to COVID-19 related restrictions, supporting parks like the Charara Safari Area and its surrounding communities is more critical than ever, and a relatively small investment can go a long way. Providing reliable, renewable energy to rangers and their communities boosts morale, strengthens communities so people are less likely to resort to poaching, and it makes rangers safer and more effective in their efforts to protect critically endangered species and their habitats.