Deforestation is a big problem in many parts of Zambia. Converting forests into farmland or bare ground causes rivers to dry up. Especially in a country where water is scarce and rivers are lifelines, this has severe negative consequences. Through the SRJS programme, the Zambian Governance Foundation and WWF are working to halt deforestation by supporting local organisations’ initiatives.
Restore what has been lost
One of the organisations that has set up projects to tackle this problem is Caritas Chipata. They educate both schools and community members about the role they can play in combating climate change and freshwater conservation. Caritas Chipata launched a tree-planting initiative for school children to begin to understand the importance of trees and why they need to be preserved. “We are trying to restore what has been lost”, said Chieftness Kawaza of the Kawaza chiefdom in Chipata. “We have to take care of what God has given us. Our children need to learn about planting trees and teach their children to do the same.”
Deforestation and harmful fishing
Another example of a successful local organisation is the Petauke District Land Alliance. They have been helping communities since 2007 to secure land, conserve natural resources and manage them. Like other rivers in the Eastern province, the Msanzala River in Petauke is drying up due to deforestation, mostly caused by cutting down trees for charcoal production and brick making in the area. As if that is not enough, people are using unsustainable methods of fishing such as poisoning, which is harming the rivers, people and livestock.
© Jasper Doest
So far, the Petauke District Land Alliance has ensured that 8,000 people have received entitlement on land. The organisation also trains communities about forest management and alternatives to charcoal production, such as beekeeping. Currently, the alliance is working in 20 villages together with local structures such as community action groups and traditional leaders. Capacity building on safe water management and entrepreneurship skills will enhance the communities’ employment opportunities and hopefully reduce the need to cut down trees.