Education boost for Nyimba

2019 has begun with excitement among students in Nyimba district who are benefitting from improved access and quality of education in nine villages in the district.

Communities in Nyimba have historically had a difficult time meeting the education needs of their growing population. With teacher training taking place in main centers such as Lusaka, it can be challenging to attract teachers to work in rural areas that are often difficult to access and lack some comforts and facilities city-dwellers may be used to.

Housing for teachers throughout Nyimba has been a key challenge for the district and one that this year, communities are addressing thanks to conservation fees received for their REDD+ habitat protection activities.

So far this year, communities in Luembe Chiefdom have completed construction of seven teacher’s houses to support recruitment of new teachers for seven schools in the district. 

The teacher shortage in Nyimba has previously caused dire classroom over-crowding, with up to 60 pupils participating in each class. The net result is lower quality education outcomes for local students, who are not able to receive adequate teacher attention to support their learning. 

Construction of the houses cost the communities 210,000 zmk (US $17,300) – an amount that would have been out of reach for the communities were it not for the conservation fee income.

Further education investments in the area are also improving student enrollment, with a double classroom block constructed for Mkoma Primary School in Nyalugwe Chiefdom. Prior to this, students were sitting outdoors in the weather during their lessons, which had led to poor enrollment and attendance levels. Now that safe classrooms with protection from the weather are available, enrollments at the school are the highest they’ve ever been, with 82 boys and 42 girls regularly attending.Education improvement has been identified as a primary development need by community leaders and members, who all have opportunity to participate in decisions around the use of their conservation fee income. It is hoped that improved education for the next generation of community members will improve livelihood opportunities and the local economy in years to come.

Students of Mkoma Primary School attend the official launch of their new double classroom and teachers house.

Vehicles from USAID Community Forests Program benefit conservation partners.

The culmination of the USAID-funded Community Forests Program (CFP), the flagship activity for USAID/Zambia’s forest conservation and rural livelihood initiatives, is enabling capacity building and resource sharing among Zambia’s key conservation leaders, as CFP vehicles were redistributed to project partners in February, 2019. 

Through the course of CFP’s implementation by BCP, a fleet of 18 off-road vehicles were secured to enable community scout patrols, sensitization and livelihood intervention activities across the one-million-hectare project area. A five-year USAID activity operational from February 2014 to January 2019, CFP has now redeployed these vehicles to project partners throughout Zambia to support ongoing forest management and wildlife protection activities.

Critical protection for the South Luangwa National Park will be enhanced through deployment of one CFP vehicle to the Zambian government’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW). The vehicle will enhance DNPW’s wildlife crime prevention operations within this critical habitat area for numerous at-risk species including elephant, lions, leopards and African wild dog.

Some of Zambia’s most at-risk forest areas will also benefit from enhanced resources as three vehicles are deployed to the Zambian government’s Forestry Department. The vehicles will be deployed in Rufunsa, Petauke and Mambwe districts to improve forest management activities within these areas, which are also home to many of the CFP REDD+ project zones.

One additional CFP vehicle is already in use at Conservation Lower Zambezi, supporting the Detection and Tracking Dog Unit, which is reducing and deterring trafficking of illegal wildlife products in and around the Lower Zambezi National Park.USAID and BCP are thankful that the CFP vehicles will continue to support key forest and wildlife protection efforts within REDD+ project areas through the work of our key CFP partners. As the CFP project officially comes to the end of its allocated time, BCP’s forest protection and community development work is primarily funded by revenue from REDD+ carbon offset sales.

Addressing Isolation in Mkoma

Sometimes the barriers to economic growth and education access in Zambia are quite literal. This is the case for the Mkoma community in Nyimba district, where the local Lusemfwa River is all but impassable during the rainy season.

The communities around Mkoma have previously relied on small privately-owned boats in the area to cross the river for children to access the local school, and for businesses and farmers to move their goods in and out of the village. This means that while these boats are occupied for personal use, such as fishing, many communities members are simply unable to access facilities on the other side of the river.To address this, Mkoma village this year elected to use a portion of their REDD+ conservation fee income to purchase a Banana boat for community use. Mkoma VAG purchased the boat for 21,000 zmk (US $1,730) and have made it available to community members every day, ensuring local students can get to school and farmers can transport food supplies throughout the year.

Watch as the Mkoma community receive their new banana boat.

Creating Employment Through Conservation

Spectators gather as applicants compete in a fitness test for 30 newly created Community Scout jobs

Key to community-based habitat protection for wildlife and forest carbon are Community Scouts. Community Scouts protect community assets and are pivotal to BCP’s mission of making conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people.  Countering threats to important wildlife habitats such as illegal logging, illegal charcoal, illegal mining, poaching and fire requires specialized skills.  

BCP partners closely with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife to build community capacity in our Lower Zambezi and Luangwa Projects.  Community Scouts are actually hired by Community Resource Boards (CRBs) through a partnership between CRBs, DNPW and BCP.  BCP has supported a Community Scout model with DNPW and CRBs since 2013 beginning in the DNPW Lower Zambezi Area Management Unit where 30 scouts were trained and now help to protect forests and wildlife.  

Through a partnership with DNPW and Forestry Department, all 10 partner Chiefdoms in the Luangwa Valley were given an opportunity to compete for 50 training slots beginning in April, 2019. Of these 50 trainees (including a number of women who passed the selection), 30 will be selected by the DNPW Training Wing to contribute to improved protection of the Luangwa Valley. 

Becoming a Community Scout is hard: 517 people applied for 30 positions—less than a 6% acceptance rate. After a 3-month training course under the auspices of DNPW, the Community Scouts will undertake anti-poaching and wildlife habitat protection patrols year-round with DNPW in at-risk conservation areas linking South Luangwa, Luambe, Lukusuzi and part of North Luangwa National Parks.

While 60 CRB scouts funded by BCP across over 900,000 hectares is not enough; it is the start of an effort to support communities and Government with enhanced resources to help protect the iconic Luangwa ecosystem.  Recruiting locally provides much-needed employment opportunities for families in rural areas with low employment rates, while also ensuring the forest and wildlife are protected by individuals who are accountable to their own communities for protection outcomes.  This model mirrors a goal of BCP to be majority community-staffed from the Chiefdoms in which we work.  With the addition of the Luangwa Community Scouts, around 70% of BCP’s entire monthly payroll will be to project area community staff. We target this figure growing in future.

Both deforestation and poaching jeopardise community benefit streams by reducing carbon offset revenues, and value from wildlife tourism. Along with intensive livelihood improvement efforts, protection undertaken by the people who also stand to benefit from REDD+ success is an important part of BCP’s formula.

During the course of their work, Community Scouts will need to traverse difficult terrain, encounter potentially dangerous wildlife and face determined people breaking the law, as well as record wildlife species and forest data.  BCP is proud of our partnerships with DNPW, Forestry Department and Communities, and proud of the men and women putting themselves on the conservation front-line.

Applicants for the Community Scout jobs set off on an 8km run to prove their fitness for the role.