MAPUTO, Mozambique’s Deputy Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, Celmira da Silva, has argued that tourism based on biodiversity can play a significant role in the economic sustainability of the country’s conservation areas.

Speaking in the southern town of Boane, at the opening Thursday of a national meeting of the National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC), the body which manages the country’s national parks and reserves, Silva noted that currently the conservation areas only have 1,500 beds for tourists.

The challenge ANAC has to meet is to increase this number five-fold by 2024, the year in which the ANAC Strategic Plan is due to end.

Tourism based on biodiversity is a goal that must be followed tirelessly since it will make it possible to launch the conservation areas on a path to economic sustainability, said Silva.

This type of tourism, she added, can also provide a wide variety of employment, and can be used as an educational vehicle, showing the negative impact on habitats which can be caused by unsustainable human activities.

She said that in southern Africa, tourism based on nature is already competing on an equal footing with other economic activities, and can produce revenues equal to those from agriculture, livestock and fisheries combined.

Furthermore, observation of iconic marine species such as whales is already proving a major tourist attraction across the globe. Mozambique enjoys a competitive advantage since it possesses three marine conservation areas, the Qurimbas National Park, in the far north, the Bazaruto Archipelago, in the southern province of Inhambane, and the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve, on the border with the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal.

Silva praised the progress made in conserving biodiversity, with the recent restocking of conservation areas including the Zinave National Park and the Maputo Special Reserve, with 3,308 animals of various species, some from elsewhere in Mozambique, and some from neighbouring countries.