Last updated: February 16, 2024

About the Silowana Complex

The Silowana Complex, the buffer zone of the Sioma Ngwezi National Park (SNNP), is situated in the southwest corner of Zambia, bordering Angola and Namibia. These three countries together with Botswana and Zimbabwe form one of the largest trans-boundary conservation areas (TCA) in the world, called the Kavango-Zambezi TCA or KAZA. The Silowana Complex encompasses 4,322 km2 and has a tropical savanna climate, while the northern part of the park is a complex of open grassy plains. It plays an essential ecological role in wildlife movement along the Kwando and Zambezi rivers.


PCA model: co-management

Protected areas in Zambia are national assets under the control of the Government of Zambia. This also applies to the Sioma Ngwezi Management Complex (SNMC) which includes the Sioma Ngwezi National Park (SNNP) and the Lower West Zambezi Game Management Area.

WWF-Zambia, together with a non-profit third-party organization, Peace Parks Foundation, has been supporting the implementation of various projects in the SNMC, since 2007. In 2017, the government, Ministry of Tourism and Arts, acting through the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (‘DNPW’) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with WWF-Zambia and Peace Parks Foundation to establish a more efficient means of collaboration for the management and development of the SNMC. It aimed to achieve specific objectives to unlock the ecological and socio-economic potential of the area, and to ensure sustainable benefit flows and community development.

There are discussions underway to further scale up efforts under a stronger, more efficient and robust management and governance framework through the establishment of a separate legal entity to manage the protected area in the long term. It is expected that this legal entity will promote the financial sustainability of SNMC and scale up conservation and development impact.




Zambia’s 50 million hectares of forests and abundant freshwater systems host some of the most important habitats for wildlife in Sub-Saharan Africa, including large carnivores. Bordered by eight countries, Zambia also occupies a crucial position in connecting eastern and southern African wildlife populations and in hosting large-scale ecological processes that depend upon this connectivity. Since 2017, WWF-Zambia has, in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), restocked over 900 various key wildlife species, namely sable antelope, wildebeest, impala, zebra, and buffalo. Increased wildlife numbers also increase the risks of human-wildlife conflicts.


The population is predominantly Silozi, with over 70,000 people residing in the Lower West Zambezi Game Management Area. The entire area is inhabited by local subsistence farming communities, some of whom are within the national park itself.

© Gareth Bentley / WWF-US
Complexities and challenges

Financial sustainability

The government’s Ministry of Tourism and Arts, acting through DNPW, WWF-Zambia, and Peace Parks Foundation, in their partnering for SNMC over the years, have recognized the importance of financial sustainability to ensure proper management and development of SNMC and to attract further donor funds to the SNMC. As SNMC is an important centre of biodiversity in Zambia and also serves as a unique landscape to promote tourism development, including the ability to contribute to the socio-economic uplift of the communities in the region, one of the mechanisms that the parties seek to develop for medium- and long-term financial sustainability of SNMC is to include donations and revenues generated from tourism.

Food security for smallholder farmers

The Silowana Complex is an arid part of Zambia, whose effects from climate change have had implications for people and wildlife, especially because the area is drought prone. Without other economic opportunities, agriculture plays a central role in securing the livelihoods of the local population. The majority of smallholders use conventional farming methods for shifting crops. Due to low soil fertility, fields can only be used for a maximum of three years. Thereafter, forested areas are cleared for new fields, and as a result, farmers continue to extend their activities into wildlife habitats, leading to human-wildlife conflicts and crop damage.

Human-wildlife conflict

The impacts of human-wildlife conflict from herbivores raiding crops, competition for water resources and large carnivores attacking cattle have the potential to negatively impact the local economy and household food and water security. It is important to also note that women and children are often the victims of wildlife attacks. Women are traditionally expected to fetch firewood and water from the bush and rivers respectively while children act as cattle herders.

Our approach in practice

Implementing and embedding safeguards

The implementation of ​​the safeguards framework in Silowana commenced in 2021 and is ongoing. An environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) and environmental and social mitigation framework (ESMF) are in the final stages of completion. The safeguards on Natural Habitats, Community Health, Safety and Security and Restriction of Access have been determined as applicable to WWF's activities in Silowana, together with the safeguards on Stakeholder Engagement and Grievance Mechanisms which are applied in all cases. The landscape is categorized as requiring special consideration, in recognition of its high complexity in terms of safeguard application, resource needs and management demand.

The consultative process underpinning the implementation steps of ​​WWF’s safeguards framework has proven valuable in identifying specific challenges and mitigations to address them. These outputs provide direction for WWF but also will inform the development of a robust governance and management model for the planned legal entity that will manage the protected area.

Sustainable tourism

Silowana Complex forms part of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, which aims to facilitate cross border conservation and tourism between five countries. This makes the area an important resource for development of national and regional tourism. As such, the landscape is a high value conservation area with great potential for both biodiversity conservation and tourism development. If well managed, tourism development could provide financing flows for continued conservation efforts beyond the combined investments of the partners presently. This could potentially contribute to a clear self-sustaining business model in support of long term conservation efforts.

Sunrise. Sioma Ngwezi National Park. Western Zambia. rel= © Patrick Bentley / WWF-US

Stakeholder engagement

Grievance mechanisms are operational in the Silowana landscape, most notably the traditional system operating through grievances being raised to the Induna (a community counselor), who can, in turn, escalate it to the Kuta (a committee of Indunas serving the region). There are also government-managed systems, primarily to manage grievances against any government employee and to which the Kuta can transfer cases. WWF-Zambia also operates a complaints management system as specified by the Speak Up! core standard. As part of safeguards implementation, WWF has developed a grievance management system that seeks to complement existing channels of grievance redress while ensuring that cases are actively tracked through whichever channel they are being processed and monitored through to resolution and closure. The system is currently undergoing testing and validation with communities who will have access to it.

Food security for smallholder farmers

WWF-Zambia in partnership with the DNPW and the Department of Agriculture (DoA) is promoting conservation agricultural technologies that are based on soil conservation using minimum tillage, use of organic manures (kraal manures), and retention of crop residues (mulch for soil moisture conservation) and use of adaptable crop varieties. The initiatives are being implemented through a system of local extension agents employed by the West Community Resource Boards to increase farmer capacity to adapt to climate change impacts. The targeted benefits are increased yields that provide increased earnings that farmers can use to pay for children’s school fees and purchase livestock, food and other household items.

Human-wildlife conflict

The Kapau community is located on the edge of the Sioma Ngwezi National Park, in Zambia, in the Kalahari basin of the KAZA Conservation Area. The community has minimal access to water sources, including a few ponds and other perennial bodies of water which they must share with their livestock as well as wildlife within the park. Competition for water access between the community and wildlife has led to increased human wildlife conflict issues, including crop raiding and livestock killings by other wildlife in the park.

A new solar powered borehole was installed in Kapau to expand options for drinking water. The water from this new borehole is pumped into a 20,000 litres tank that supplies a nearby tap where community members can get water. Out of the 494 households in the community, 78 of them now access water from this newly drilled source.

Beyond providing the Kapau people with an additional source of water, this initiative has also fostered human-wildlife co-existence. Cattle are now watered using troughs closer to the new borehole instead of the pans further out in the park where they were more vulnerable.

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