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AFD splashes £3 million for Great Zimbabwe rehabilitation

French Agence Française de Développement (AFD) is funding a three-year, three million euro project to ensure the preservation and conservation of Great Zimbabwe as an authentic World heritage site.

The project dubbed the Great Zimbabwe Development Project (GZDP), is being managed by United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), with project partners also including National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

GZDP which began in July and will conclude in June 2025.

This million dollar project was unveiled during a two-day media workshop held in Masvingo on November 24-25.

GZDP whose project partners also includes National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

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AFD investment officer for Zimbabwe and Malawi Thibaud Delplancke, addressing the media during the two-day workshop said the collaboration with the government to rehabilitate Great Zimbabwe was a great privilege.

“Working on one of Africa’s most spectacular architectural and cultural landscapes, with the largest dry stone structures in sub-Saharan Africa is a privilege

“Great Zimbabwe is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of outstanding tangible and intangible cultural significance and high tourism attractiveness, inserted within a broader tourist destination and a protected and dynamic landscape, where sustainable human activities contribute to the authenticity of the place while generating economic outcomes for local communities.

“The project will work hand in hand with the key Zimbabwean player (NMMZ) for the conservation of the site,” said Delplancke.

Addressing journalists last Thursday during the two-day workshop, Masvingo province Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Dr Jefter Sakupwanya said the initiative would benefit the local communities and would conclude with Great Zimbabwe being developed to meet global standards as a world heritage site.

“The whole purpose of this initiative is to ensure that our prime cultural heritage place, Great Zimbabwe World Heritage Site, is developed to global standards to continue attracting tourists as well as ensuring local communities around Great Zimbabwe also benefit from the tourism influx expected.

“For us the people of Masvingo this is an important initiative that is expected to stimulate not only the tourism industry but other downstream related industries.

“The Great Zimbabwe was undoubtedly one of the world’s key centres of civilisation. In this regard Great Zimbabwe…plays an important role as a cultural tourism centre in the province, the nation and the world at large,” said Sakupwanya

This ancient Zimbabwe city was built and occupied between the 12th and 15 centuries by the Karanga speaking people.

The architectural zones of the Great Zimbabwe ruins are divided into three major architectural zones: the Hill Complex, the Great Enclosure, and the Valley Complex.

Although some archeologists have described Great Zimbabwe’s architecture as unparalleled in Africa or beyond, time has not been kind to the ruins, and some walls are now in danger of collapsing.

UNOPS which is managing the GZDP project conducted a feasibility study which concluded that the current physical facilities and services currently do not meet international standards, indicating the need for such a project.

UNOPS project manager Salesio Zvawada addressing the media during the two-day workshop, on Thursday emphasized the importance of bringing together local skills and modern approaches in order to successfully implement the three-year project.

“The site should be developed through the various design stages and include the actual implementation and follow up of all related works, embedding the local skills and techniques into a well-designed contemporary approach to the visit, enhancing its associated features, mainly: entrance, access, signage, parking, interpretation centre, museum, interpretive trails and walkways.

“GZWHS monument has low visitor numbers stemming from a lack of capacity and resources at the local level to promote the site as a tourist destination of choice and the general management framework of the site makes it unfavorable to private investment.

Land desertification and soil erosion in the Great Zimbabwe area have led some cattle owners to break the fences circling the NMMZ estate to enable herds to pasture within the protected area. It is necessary to adopt, implement and enforce a comprehensive land-use and development plan for Masvingo,” said Zvawada.

During the two-day workshop, journalists on Friday were shown the Real-Time Electronic Monitors (RTEM), technology used to monitor the movements of the walls that were about to collapse.

RTEM records the original state of the walls before they collapse, allowing archeologists and architects to restore them without jeopardizing their authenticity.