Zambia: biodiversity and livelihoods go hand in hand

10 Feb 2010

The North-Western province of Zambia is often referred to as an awakening giant in the Zambian economy because of its natural resource base.

The discovery of huge copper deposits in the area and subsequent opening of copper mines at Lumwana, next to the capital of the province, Solwezi, have attracted a considerable amount of investment. In fact, Lumwana is now considered to have become the largest copper mine in Africa.

Today, the region’s ecosystem is under threat, as exemplified by the dwindling biodiversity of the West Lunga National Park. The park is home to a profusion of rivers, large tracts of fertile land and dense forests as well as wildlife, including fish.

Over the years, not only have poaching and logging depleted the natural resource base of the park, but they are threatening livelihoods, not least because tourism represents a major source of revenue for local residents.

Chopping down trees for household uses has also contributed  to an increase in carbon emissions.

In 2006, thanks to Zambia’s Ministry of Tourism Environment and Natural Resources, the West Lunga National Park was classified as a protected area.

Since the re-classification took place, UNDP has been able to lay the foundations of sound environmental management in the park, focusing on biodiversity and livelihoods as two sides of the same coin. Funding for this effort has been provided by the German International Climate Initiative and the Global Environment Facility.

Through the project, local villagers are encouraged to work with the government to improve their environment and maximize their sources of revenue.

The project has worked with local communities to establish policies on managing biodiversity areas.

It has overseen the construction of fifteen houses that accommodate wildlife scouts. The scouts are drawn from the local community, trained in law enforcement, and go out to ensure that laws on poaching, illegal fishing and logging are not violated.

It has also promoted the activities of tour guides who can organize bird watching and fishing tours, local handicrafts such as basket-weaving, production of reed mats and cane chairs woven from indigenous materials.

These activities have created employment and income for impoverished communities.

In addition, communities are now aware of the risks associated with chopping down trees for firewood and have been taught alternative methods to generate energy in order to avoid forest depletion.

An information and awareness campaign surrounding these risks has brought about a 20% reduction in emissions reductions that arise from logging.

2010 has been termed as the International Year of Biodiversity. Poverty and biodiversity are intimately linked. The poor, especially in rural areas, depend on biodiversity for food, fuel, shelter, medicines and livelihoods.

Biodiversity also provides the critical 'ecosystem services' on which development depends, including air and water purification, soil conservation, disease control, and reduced vulnerability to natural disasters such as floods, droughts and landslides. Biodiversity loss exacerbates poverty, and likewise, poverty is a major threat to biodiversity.