Imagine that you live in a small remote village in Zambia. For four months every year the river swells with water from the rains further north. You cannot access the other side to go to school, or visit the clinic when you’re sick, without the risk of being attacked by crocodiles who prowl the water.
This is a very real situation for the villages in the Mwanya Chiefdom. Every year from December to April, the Lukusuzi River, a subsidiary of the Luangwa River, rises, breaking the connection that local villages have to education and healthcare. When the waters rise and the footpath across become inaccessible, only an adventurous few are willing to venture across the water. Those who do cross the river during flood, build makeshift rafts or swim, but risk getting attacked by crocodiles.
For a long time, Mwanya Chiefdom has needed a boat to cross the river when it floods.
On May 18th, BCP delivered a boat to Mwanya Chiefdom. The boat — “Mwase Wa Minga,” named for the first Chief of Mwanya Chiefdom — is one of three Partnership Projects that BCP is funding in Mwanya Chiefdom, under the USAID-funded Community Forests Program (CFP). The boat was handed over to the community during a public ceremony that was officiated by the Lundazi District Commissioner, and which was attended by numerous government representatives, as well as representatives from BCP and USAID. Two hundred people were in attendance, including many local school children, who were celebrating the fact that they would no longer have to cross the river by foot when it floods, or miss classes due to high waters.
For miles around the community came and gathered at the banks of the river, where the boat launch was held. The event started off with the national anthem, followed by singing and dancing, and speeches given by BCP, the Chief Representative, and the District Commissioner. During her speech, the District Commissioner praised the partnership that has formed between Mwayna community, BCP, and the government, to deliver community needs and to promote local natural resource conservation, under the USAID-funded CFP. As she said: “BCP under the CFP has engaged the government, traditional authority, and the entire community. This has made them very visible in the district and more specifically it’s importance to Mwanya Chiefdom. This incentive we are witnessing today must be commended. The CFP has procured a boat to facilitate the crossing of the Lukusuzi River. […] I am aware that we have recorded a number of of fatalities and incidents at the Lukusuzi crossing point and a boat needs to be used during the rainy season. My office is aware that this is an important crossing point because it’s the only route out of Mwanya during the rainy season. I’m very pleased and glad to see this boat […] Mwanya Chiefdom has a lot of needs and it is my hope that the CFP, with funding from USAID, will go a long way toward improving the community once an agreement has been signed by the community, government, and BCP to protect the forest.”
Along with the speeches, students from the local school performed a play about a young boy trying to get to school and a young pregnant woman who was unable to reach a clinic. While the play elicited laughter from the crowd, it still provided a reminder of what has, up to now, been a very real concern and reality for local communities who are regularly isolated by the river. In attendance at the event, Mrs. Abbia Daka, the acting deputy teacher at Mwanya School, stood beaming and surrounded by her students. Praising the launch of the boat, she said: “In March there was just a recent case of an attack. Children were afraid to cross and they stopped their education. Now this boat will take them to the other side so they can attend and get an education from the fifth through twelfth grade.’’
The USAID-funded Community Forests Program (CFP) is now working in Mwanya Chiefdom as well as 8 other Chiefdoms in Eastern Province to develop community-led REDD+ projects, by partnering with local villages to protect intact forest, and delivering impacts based on community needs. Partnership Projects are an initial step of demonstrating goodwill and commitment from the project, in advance of signing forest protection agreements between communities and government. In Mwanya Chiefdom, other partnership projects that are being delivered by BCP under the CFP include delivery of furniture to Yakobe Clinic and assistance with the construction of a maternity shelter for Mkasanga Clinic. These projects are estimated to be completed in upcoming months, through BCP support and community and government facilitation.
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.