Songimvelo-Malolotja Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA)

The world’s borders are arbitrary. In the case of Africa, drawn by external conquers in the 18th and 19th centuries, the borders of Africa have divided unified landscapes and fragmented human societies. People who speak the same languages, practice the same customs and those who trace their lineages to common ancestors today find themselves on opposite sides of geo-political borders. The borders have also divided large biospheres, cutting vast ecosystems into fragmented parts. At the same time dividing large animal populations and minimizing the areas where they traditionally roamed. The Songimvelo-Malolotja TFCA (Transfrontier Conservation Area) straddling the northern border of Swaziland with the south eastern border of Mpumalanga province (South Africa) aims to foster regional development and the conservation of biodiversity across man-made boundaries. The recognized protected areas within the TFCA encompasses around 170 000 hectares.

Mountainlands-Nature-Reserve_0124In March 2000 the Governments of South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique signed a general agreement establishing the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area. It differs markedly from other TFCA’s in southern Africa, like the Kgalagadi and Greater Limpopo TFCA’s in that it encompasses five distinct protocols separated geographically, but jointly planned under the Trilateral Lubombo Commission delegated by a Tri-lateral Ministerial Meeting. In 2004 the Songimvelo-Malolotja TFCA was formally recognized under the protocol as one of the five.

Two conservation authorities, namely Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (South Africa) and the Swaziland National Trust Commission (Swaziland) are actively cooperating on this unique Transfrontier Conservation Area which also forms part of a future World Heritage Site. The departure point for this TFCA links the Songimvelo Nature Reserve in South Africa with the adjacent Malolotja Nature Reserve in Swaziland. The Drakensberg Escarpment (the dominant physiographic feature of south-eastern Africa), which together with its associated highlands and mountains are known locally as the Barberton Mountain Land, forms the central feature of the expanded TFCA with links to adjacent conservation areas, including Mountainlands Nature Reserve.

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