In its continued effort to conserve afromontane biodiversity while improving the welfare of local people, the Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia (WECSZ) took to Mulakatembo to train twenty selected members of the community on how to raise indigenous tree nurseries. This was part of the Conservation and Forest Management project in the Mafinga Hills priority KBA, Zambia. The project has trained about sixty people from three villages namely Malungule, Mulekatembo and Nachisitu.
Malungule, Mulekatatembo and Nachisitu villages lie astride the Mafinga hills in Mafinga District of Muchinga province. The people here are mostly traditional pastoralists who also act as guardians of biological diversity. They play a critical role in the preservation of the headwaters of the Luangwa River. Commenting on the project, chief Mwenichifungwe said his people had received the initiative with excitement and would commit to ensuring its success.
WECSZ has made strides to help communities in the critical ecosystem of Mafinga to come up with nurseries for trees which are indigenous to the area. The resulting seedlings are expected to be planted along degraded riparian zones of the Luangwa river headwaters. This initiative is being carried out with the help of experts from Forestry Department and the Department of Agriculture with kind support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).
The challenge that Zambia faces in protecting her biodiversity is far from an insufficiency of policy direction. The country has seen a surge of sound environmental policies the past decade. The country is losing a lot of natural resources not that we do not have good policies but that much of the information is not shared with the people at grass root. If people at grassroot knew the value of what they have around them, a lot of natural resources (such as the highly politicised Mukula tree) would be saved.
The local people of Mulekatembo are rich in Indigenous knowledge on riparian tree species in their area. Although efforts have been made at some level, Indigenous knowledge is not yet fully utilized in the development process of managing our natural resources. Many an indigenous knowledge systems are at risk of becoming extinct because of rapidly changing natural environments and fast pacing economic, political, and cultural changes on a global scale. Practices vanish, as they become inappropriate for new challenges or because they adapt too slowly.
Zambia’s natural resource has suffered partly because indigenous practices are slowly replaced by the intrusion of foreign technologies or development concepts that promise short-term gains or solutions to economic problems without being capable of sustaining them. The tragedy of the impending disappearance of indigenous knowledge is most obvious to those who have hijacked it and make a living through it. But the implication for others can be detrimental as well when skills, technologies, artifacts, problem solving strategies and expertise are lost.
As an environmental action group, the Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia seeks to work with communities in all areas around the country in order to supplement government’s effort to promote healthy environments and sustainable livelihoods.