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"Foot and Mouth Disease Management and Land-Use Implications in the Zimbabwean Lowveld: the Rationale for Creating a Biosphere Reserve"

Raoul du Toit

The Lowveld region of Zimbabwe is the semi-arid southeastern sector of the country, in which mean annual rainfall is 300-600 mm per annum. This region, being about 200,000 km2, comprises 20% of Zimbabwe. It includes state land (notably the Gonarezhou National Park), Communal Lands (subsistence production) and commercial ranching areas that until recent political unrest in Zimbabwe were converting rapidly into wildlife production as the primary land-use in place of cattle ranching. These commercial ranching areas contain approximately 260 black rhinos, which constitute about half of Zimbabwe's total black rhino population. In addition, the Lowveld contains significant populations of wild dog, elephants, cheetah, white rhino, etc. The initiation of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Area can and should lead to the inclusion of wildlife producing areas of the Lowveld within a massive regional wildlife complex.

Although land-use patterns in the Lowveld have recently been disrupted by land invasions and by associated problems during a period of economic and political instability, the future of the area clearly lies in the comparative ecological and economic advantage that has been demonstrated in wildlife-based land-uses, regardless of who owns the land. There is an urgent need now to initiative planning and dialogue between stakeholders in order to maximize the wildlife potential of the Lowveld, as Zimbabwe emerges from current instability. This may best be achieved through the initiation of a Lowveld Biosphere Programme, for which international funding and technical support must be secured. This programme would have to be strongly linked to the re-establishment of control measures for Foot-and-Mouth Disease, which must become a priority for future development assistance to Zimbabwe owing to the impacts of this disease not only on Zimbabwe's beef industry but also on the economies of adjacent countries (South Africa and Botswana).

du toit

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Raoul du Toit

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