Zimbabwe's Middle Zambezi Valley was amongst 13 new international sites given enhanced conservation status as "Biosphere Reserves" by the United National Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in June 2010
"Biospheres" seek to halt the loss of biodiversity and promote sustainable development.
The Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve extends from Lake Kariba and the Matusadona National Park through various National Park and Safari Areas adjacent to the Zambezi River, including Mana Pools, Sapi and Chewore which together are already designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are 534 Biosphere Reserves in 109 countries worldwide. This is the first within Zimbabwe - the only others in the region being in Malawi and South Africa.
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) defines these reserves as places which "test different approaches to integrated management of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine resources and biodiversity."
The Zambezi valley contains riverine and terrestrial ecosystems unique to the sub-continent
"This is very exciting news", " says Professor Chris Magadza, who heads up a Zimbabwean UNESCO "Man and Biosphere" Committee, and was responsible for the successful application. "At last, this vast area which is rich in biodiversity and natural resources is being recognised for its international significance".
But, he points out that such recognition comes with responsibilities. Zimbabwean authorities are now required to establish proper planning mechanisms for the Biosphere Reserve and to report annually to UNESCO on the reserve's status and well-being.
He also points out that having a Biosphere Reserve on the Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi River and not on the Zambian side does not make good planning sense. Zambia needs to help protect precious wildlife and biodiversity areas across the river too.