Building community-based forest and biodiversity management capacity

Conservation in Zambia, as in many other parts of Africa, takes place through the goodwill of nearby communities, and the application of national law by government. Under the Community Forests Program (CFP), BioCarbon Partners (BCP) and the Zambia Wildlife Authority ( ZAWA) are collaborating in Rufunsa District to promote community-based management of natural resources, including threatened wildlife populations, in a globally significant Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (TFCA).

The Lower Zambezi ecosystem is one of the most important wildlife estates within Zambia and comprises the Lower Zambezi National Park, Game Management Areas (GMAs) and Rufunsa Conservancy. The ecosystem is part of a globally significant TFCA shared between Zambia and Zimbabwe (‘Lower Zambezi-Mana Pools TFCA’), which contains one of Africa’s largest remaining elephant populations.

Elephants are under increasing immense threat from poaching for Asian ivory markets. These illegal wildlife markets threaten long-term elephant survival across the African continent and associated tourism-based economies.

A significant part of any local conservation strategy in the Lower Zambezi ecosystem, therefore, is to support the law enforcement activities of ZAWA in customary land, the Game Management Areas, and Lower Zambezi National Park.

The CFP has received a waiver from USAID allowing us to support ZAWA’s conservation enforcement efforts, by providing direct support to ZAWA and to a local Community Resource Board (CRB), including joint operations and collaboration. This collaboration takes different forms, including: sponsoring Village Scout (VS) payroll, providing training, equipment, and institutional and support to the Mpanshya CRB, as well as support to ZAWA patrols in terms of VS manpower for joint patrols, transport for deployments, patrol rations, and radio and GPS equipment loans.

Resources in the northern sector of the ecosystem for conservation management are limited, yet this area is where many of the threats to the park originate from—due, in part, to the proximity of this area to a major highway, and denser peri-urban population expansion than other boundaries of the park.  The northern sector of the park is thus an important buffer to elephant populations in the Zambezi Valley, but is being used as access to poach within the Valley.

Under the CFP, as part of on-going REDD+ activities in Rufunsa District, BCP has been able to collaborate with ZAWA and the local Mpanshya CRB to patrol the northern boundary of the Lower Zambezi National Park, along the project area of the Rufunsa Conservancy, as a means of providing critical monitoring and enforcement along one of the Park’s most threatened and vulnerable boundaries.

On the morning of December 24th, 2014, BCP transported a small team of ZAWA scouts to the northern area of the Lower Zambezi National Park, to an area known as Ikondo. The Wildlife Police Officers headed out on patrol. Their mission was to work their way on foot toward the southern end of the park, camping at different locations each night on their way to a set rendezvous point.

Within hours of this deployment, the ZAWA Senior Ranger had contacted BCP to inform us that the Scouts had encountered a group of armed individuals, and they had recovered a weapon and ivory, south of the drop-off point. With the nearest ZAWA vehicle at least 5-hours’ drive away, ZAWA requested for BCP to retrieve the Scout group and to collect the confiscated materials. BCP responded by immediately fetching the team with their confiscated materials and dropping them at the ZAWA office in Chinyunyu.

The officers on the patrol related how they had come across a group of approximately 10 people at a makeshift camp in the National Park. When they saw the Scouts, the individuals immediately ran away. However, as they ran, they dropped a modern .375 heavy rifle, 4 tusks of ivory, bushmeat, axes and a scale. No arrests were possible, but the ZAWA team managed to recover and confiscate all of these materials – materials that clearly indicate involvement in serious poaching activities taking place in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

This particular case is an illustration of how strategically important CFP support to ZAWA is in the Lower Zambezi ecosystem, and how rapidly important resources can be deployed to support ZAWA operations, as part of this collaboration.

Through generous USAID/Zambia support through the CFP, in December 2014, 12 Village Scouts were sponsored through formal ZAWA training. As a result of USAID’s expressed commitment to support on-going collaboration with ZAWA under the CFP in Rufunsa District, BCP has signed agreements with Mpanshya CRB to continue supporting these 12 new Village Scouts, as they support on-going joint-patrols, monitoring and enforcement in the Lower Zambezi ecosystem, including the National Park and GMAs.

In 2015, these new Village Scouts have begun supporting ZAWA officers on patrols, and their presence is expected to greatly increase community-based natural resource management in this strategic ecosystem.

The collaboration between USAID/Zambia, ZAWA and BCP in Rufunsa District is therefore an important demonstration of the potential of the USAID-funded Community Forests Program (CFP) to promote improved collaboration between local communities, Government and private sector entities, to support community-based natural resource management, and enforcement of Zambian laws, to protect local natural resources and wildlife in critical, threatened, globally significant ecosystems.

Items confiscated by ZAWA Scouts in December 2014, with support from CFP funded staff and vehicles, included ivory, weapons bushmeat and other tools involved in poaching

Items confiscated by ZAWA Scouts in December 2014, with support from CFP funded staff and vehicles, included ivory, weapons bushmeat and other tools involved in poaching

3 Boreholes Sunk in Rufunsa District through LZRP Partnership

Accessing safe drinking water continues to be one of the most pressing challenges facing African rural communities. Despite considerable and concerted investments over the past decade, many rural communities still encounter huge clean water supply challenges – even to the extent of women walking for kilometres to find clean water.

Zambia, like most African countries, still grapples with the challenge of accessing clean and safe drinking water. According to the United Nations International Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) it is estimated that over 4.8 million Zambians live without access to clean water and 6.6-million lack access to sanitation.

Providing clean and safe drinking water remains top priority for the Zambian government. However, achieving this requires concerted efforts from cooperating partners.

The need to involve and empower local communities and governments in managing their natural resources, and to bring positive impacts to local communities, including community development, livelihoods improvement and poverty reduction, has caused BioCarbon Partners (BCP) to take a keen interest in investing in and promoting water-related projects in Zambia.

In order to do this, BioCarbon Partners Trust has entered into a partnership Water 282, a non-profit NGO dedicated to giving safe, clean water and good sanitation and hygiene practices to people in rural communities in Zambia.

Through this partnership, at the end of 2014,  3 boreholes were sunk and handed over in 3 village locations in Rufunsa District, in areas where BCP is currently working as part of the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project (LZRP). The Boreholes are estimated to support over 124 hundred households in Nsambilo, Shimaluba and Chikobeni villages.  The boreholes were delivered immediately usable as they were capped, with cement slabs and hand pumps.  The total direct value of drilling the boreholes was $18,000, not including in-kind support from the communities and BCP.

Present at the launch event, the Deputy Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Hon. Danny Chingimbu, reiterated the Zambian Government’s commitment to working with well-meaning investors in the provision of infrastructure and other necessities as needed in rural areas.

“Government is very happy with the gesture shown by Water 282 and BCP.  The boreholes sunk in Rufunsa District will go a long way in complementing government efforts in providing clean and safe drinking water to rural communities across the country” explained Hon. Chingimbu.

Meanwhile, BioCarbon Partners (BCP) Managing Director, Hassan Sachedina said BioCarbon Partners will endeavor to support the Zambian government through its implementation of projects that will contribute to poverty reduction and enhance community livelihood.

“The sinking of boreholes is one of the many developmental activities BCP is implementing in Zambia with an aim to enhance forest protection, improve livelihoods and promote conservation in rural communities.  BCP is working hard to draw a clear link between deforestation reduction and community benefits in Rufunsa District with scalable potential to other areas of Zambia,” added Sachedina.Untitled Untitled2

Photos: Borehole launch event in Rufunsa District, marking the handover of 3 boreholes that were sunk through a partnership between Water 282 and BCP Trust. Shown in the photos: Deputy Minister Honourable Danny Chingimbu (in Suit) Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection,  Mr. Paul Kasongo, District Commissioner for Rufunsa, officials from Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and community representatives.

— Blog post written by Desmond Katongo, Communications Specialist, with contributions from David Mwanza, Governance Manager