The HALO Trust

From Conflict to Conservation: Building a Sustainable Future for Angola

Sustainable development

This initiative will protect one of the planet’s last wild places by clearing landmines and building conservation systems across the Okavango-Zambezi river watersheds in Angola.

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Lead Organization

The HALO Trust

Washington, D.C., United States

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

A decades-long civil war left Angola littered with landmines that have killed and maimed tens of thousands of civilians and hindered development. This tragic legacy is particularly acute around the headwaters of the Okavango, a critically important ecosystem known as the Okavango-Zambezi Water Tower. The threat of landmines, along with the remoteness of the region, served to protect the ecosystem for decades. However, demand for scarce resources and increasingly destructive practices by impoverished local communities are now causing massive losses of wildlife.Given the urgency of this threat, The HALO Trust and the National Geographic Society have partnered to clear the landmines surrounding the headwaters, build a national park, and connect the residents of this region to opportunities in conservation and sustainable tourism. As a result, this project will serve to enhance the lives of an isolated and war-ravaged population while also protecting one of the planet’s last wild places.

Problem Statement

The sustained loss of Earth’s wild places exacerbates the pressure that humans place on our planet as it tries to support not only human life, but all life. Protecting these last wild places while ensuring that people can live sustainably in and from them, like they have for hundreds of years, is vital; our problem is that the loss of wild places equals loss of human existence in the long run.This solution focuses on one near pristine piece of southeastern Angola, which has remained protected, ironically, due to decades of war and its extremely remote location. However, external pressure is building there, and the time to act to keep it pristine, so that it can support its people and wildlife, is now.HALO and NGOWP have been working collaboratively for four years in this landscape, with HALO keeping NGOWP safe from the landmine threat while it conducts broad biodiversity and social surveys of the landscape and villages of the Okavango-Zambezi Water Tower. The result so far has been the discovery of 11 species new to science and the description of 70 more.Unless this region can be actively managed and alternative livelihoods for local residents can be found, the future of the entire Okavango River Basin could be jeopardized. This solution seeks to establish a system of formal protection here, linked to a network of transboundary protected areas to ensure that people and wildlife exist harmoniously in a (currently) near pristine ecosystem.

Solution Overview

This project will clear the 70 remaining unfunded minefields in the Okavango-Zambezi Water Tower. Running concurrently with the Angolan government-funded clearance program to the south, this solution will rid this landscape of landmines once and for all and allow for responsible community-led conservation and development efforts to commence under the supervision and guidance of the NGOWP.As land is cleared over the course of the project, conservation and development efforts by the NGOWP can begin almost immediately. In HALO’s experience throughout Angola, mines were laid in the most inhabitable and resource-rich areas; as such, land pressure is high, and communities tend to re-engage cleared areas quickly. Without immediate efforts, this could lead to unnecessary overutilization of that land through consumptive means, resulting in deforestation, as just one example.Our collaborative solution will positively impact the communities of southeastern Angola by providing opportunities for employment in the short term and sustainable livelihoods in the long term. While this project targets a specific geographic area, its successful implementation can set an important precedent for replication elsewhere in Angola, the region, and globally.The grand vision for this project is the establishment of a mosaic of protected areas in the Water Tower. These will connect onto a series of transboundary protected areas ultimately allowing the free migration of wild animals throughout the Okavango system. In conjunction, conservation and tourism industries can flourish and bring much-needed livelihood opportunities to the local communities within and adjacent to these protected areas.

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Project Funders

  • Government of Angola 2019 - 2024
  • National Geographic Society

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