Empowering Conservation and Prosperity Through Community Action in the Barotse Floodplains

Published: Mar 5, 2024 Reading time: 2 minutes
Empowering Conservation and Prosperity Through Community Action in the Barotse Floodplains
© Foto: Tereza Hronová

The rich floodplains of western Zambia's Barotse region are home to incredible biodiversity but also deep poverty. Overreliance on natural resources and harmful coping strategies have degraded the landscape, straining the local environment and livelihoods. Unsustainable practices such as overgrazing, wildfires, and illegal logging for charcoal threaten ecosystems that both communities and wildlife depend on. A lack of alternative income sources and access to clean energy further drives deforestation, creating a negative cycle of destruction.

Funded by Jersey Overseas Aid, our new 3-year project aims to address these challenges through an integrated approach benefiting both people and nature. Our colleagues at People in Need (PIN) Zambia and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Zambia will promote Conservation for Sustainable Livelihoods. By empowering communities to sustainably co-manage natural resources while facilitating clean energy and alternative livelihoods, we will help communities break this harmful cycle.

A recent baseline study surveying 643 households across 10 sites in the Mongu and Limulunga districts of Western Province revealed deep economic insecurity and overreliance on environmentally damaging livelihoods. Only 22% of households surveyed had a secure income, and just 4% engaged in climate-resilient income generation that is sustainable and economically viable. Awareness of fuel-efficient cookstoves was limited to 13%, with no households using these fuel-saving technologies. While 74% reported acceptable current food consumption, unsustainable practices threaten the resources and ecosystems that underpin local food security.

Working with local groups and WWF Zambia, we will revamp rangeland and forest management practices to strengthen capacity for conserving critical ecosystems. The project will provide greater access to clean and renewable energy sources, like biogas, to reduce deforestation pressures. New climate-resilient businesses centred on sustainable non-timber forest products will offer additional income opportunities.

Approximately 1 million people across Western Province stand to benefit from improved natural resource management, safeguarded local ecosystems, diversified livelihoods, and expanded clean energy access. Economic and social empowerment of women and marginalised groups is a key priority in shaping project activities.

The ultimate goal is for sustainable ecosystem stewardship to become a source of prosperity. By project end, we hope to have achieved healthier rangelands, restored biodiversity, enhanced food security, increased incomes, and widespread clean energy adoption—a true win-win for Barotse residents and local wildlife alike.

This community-led approach represents a unique collaboration leveraging PIN's poverty alleviation expertise with WWF's conservation focus. Through partnership with local stakeholders, we can secure a sustainable future for Zambia's remarkable Barotse floodplains, its exceptional natural environments, and communities.

Autor: Grace Sikanda Namakau

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