Grace Kashiya is the dynamic inaugural District Forestry Officer for Rufunsa. As just one of three Zambian government officials overseeing forestry management in a district of more than 800,000 hectares, Grace has a big job on her hands.
“The land and communities in Rufunsa are in need of specialised intervention, which is why my role was created five years ago. The area here was rife with charcoal production and agricultural activities that were clearing the previously vast forest areas.”
BCP began interventions in the Rufunsa district in 2012, successfully curbing deforestation as part of the Rufunsa Conservancy project. The forest conservation success resulted in a community income deficit from reduced charcoal production in particular, and created a need for livelihood innovation and support.
“BCP, now through the USAID-funded Community Forest Project (CFP), has greatly reduced deforestation in this area which is important for the conservation of Rufunsa. Now the communities here need help to replace the income they’ve lost from previous charcoal and farming activities. This is where our partnership has become very fruitful” Grace says.
CFP’s initial livelihood interventions established sustainable honey and eco-charcoal projects. Now, the government and CFP partners are working to scale up an innovative nursery project that provides income generation while also encouraging reforestation.
“The Rufunsa nursery project has potential to address both deforestation and livelihood issues in the district for many years to come. CFP has donated tree seeds which my team grow to viable planting size. The tree varieties are producing edible fruits such as avocado and guava, and providing sustainable wood for use in local building styles” Grace explains.
“The plants are distributed to local community members – each local household is entitled to up to 200 trees, at no charge. We help the households assess which varieties will grow well on their land, and assist with plant placement. The trees are then available for harvest and sale as an alternative income source.”
Grace is seeing many positive impacts from the project which first began two years ago. Interest from farmers is increasing and in late 2017 CFP enabled the project to expand.
“CFP provided new fencing to secure an even larger nursery area and protect the seedlings from passing livestock and wildlife. They have also established a new borehole to water the nursery. These improvements will enable us to increase our seedlings by more than 40%. I am hopeful that as CFP’s sensitization activities continue we will see an increase in farmers and households replanting their land with productive trees” she says.
“Creating change is an exercise in education within this community. CFP’s sensitization activities, combined with conservation fee investment in education facilities, is having a ripple effect here. Students are becoming more literate and environmentally aware, and as they share this information with their parents we are seeing increased willingness to try new innovations and alternative livelihood projects.
“By investing in the land, the communities now receive conservation income, which in turn invests in the future of their families. It’s a cycle of positive benefits.”