Recently, twenty one people including staff from the USAID-funded Community Forests Program (CFP), local leaders and Community Ambassadors from Msoro Chiefdom joined together to paint a 2.6 km boundary along the proposed Conservation Forest. An area the community has flagged as facing a “high threat” from deforestation, and which they have requested support to “mark”, as the next step forward for the CFP.
Since 2014, the CFP, being implemented by BCP, has engaged with local communities, community leaders, and Government, to identify areas of forest that will be conserved by the community using the REDD+ method. The fact that local communities are now ready and willing to begin visibly marking their proposed boundaries of the protected forest, is a major milestone.
This activity also provides an important reminder of the threat that these forests face, including pressure to clear land for agriculture use from a rapidly growing population. Msoro Chiefdom was selected as the first site to pilot visible demarcations. The community brought up concerns and warnings that certain areas of the proposed Conservation Forest are close to villages, flagging these areas as “high risk” for trees that could be cleared along the proposed boundary.
Sure enough, the community members were right. During the painting activity the participants witnessed a “new” village (i.e. started within the past few months) along the boundary of the proposed protected forest area. Near to this village, the team saw numerous trees that had been felled, presumably to clear land for agriculture use. They also saw trees that had been “ring-barked,” a practice that slowly kills the tree. When a tree loses a strip of bark ringing it, nutrients can no longer freely flow through the tree. These trees had been deliberately ring-barked, to make them easier to knock down and clear land for agricultural use. In another case, the trees had been stripped of their bark to make traditional and unsustainable hives for beekeeping. (Note: BCP’s Honey Production Project, which has been launched in Rufunsa, and which we hope to expand into Eastern Province within the next few months, promotes the use of sustainably-produced hives that do not drive deforestation, and which can, in fact, help to create incentives for protecting forests, by allowing producers to gain income from honey produced in areas of intact forest).
The painting activity proceeded peacefully, and provided a great opportunity for Community Ambassadors to speak with residents of the local village, reminding them of the proposed Conservation Forest boundary, and encouraging them to participate in the sustainable livelihoods activities that will be implemented in their Chiefdom. Importantly, the initial boundary painting activity provided a learning opportunity for the participants to visibly mark the “most threatened” areas of their Conservation Forest boundaries, thereby ensuring the local community is aware of the boundaries, and to avoid conflicts based on misunderstandings, in the future. These initial boundary marking activities will be followed by a more formal boundary demarcation process, which will be undertaken in upcoming months in partnership with the Government of Zambia, including the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), the Government Department responsible for the management of Game Management Areas (GMAs) where the Conservation Forests are located.
This blog is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content of this blog are the sole responsibility of BCP and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.