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Citizen Science; An Opportunity for Zambia to Thrive in Community-Based Sustainable Natural Resource Management

Citizen science is on the rise globally and its contribution in the data collection, use and information sharing process is undeniably making a global impact. This has been evident through the GroundTruth 2.0 Project Zambia demonstration case which focuses on Community-based Sustainable Natural Resource Management. 

In Zambia, community-based natural resource management is at the core of actualizing sustainable development. In recent years, citizens, that is; community members, have had difficulties in communicating challenges concerning community-based natural resource management and the GroundTruth 2.0 Project has offered what undoubtedly seems like a solution to the various concerns raised by the key custodians of community natural resources, which are the Village Action Groups and Community Resource Boards.  

The project has been appreciated at local community level and at national level as it enables a cross pollination of information in a time where real time data is needed to enhance decision making, and a time where participatory approaches and community driven sustainable development is an everyday conversation that needs action. It uses an ITC based platform to gather information, use and report on serious threats to the environment such as; illegal timber logging, human-wildlife conflict, poaching, droughts, floods and their harmful impacts.  The idea of citizen participation in environmental knowledge discovery and the involvement of policy makers in the process as well as the use of data aggregators is in itself a means to an end. 

Active citizen participation in the collection, sharing and use of the data gathered on community natural resources has so far been seen as a significant and sustainable way of ensuring environmental stewardship and better management of natural resources. One major contribution of the GroundTruth2.0 project is that it has become more evident that bridging the communication gap between communities and key stakeholders in the field of community-based natural resource management is possible. The benefits of correct management of community natural resources will be harvested by both community members and Zambia at large - as it aims at achieving its sustainable development goals by the year 2030.  Citizen Science through this project, has also benefited conservation in Zambia as the project allows for a wide range of natural resources to be conserved and our environment to be protected. The other promising benefit is the addition of real time information to the scientific body of knowledge which is a fundamental part of development too.

In summary, Citizen Science is more than the process of actively participating in the actual collection, sharing and use of data. In Zambia, it is a voice for community members on issues concerning natural resources, it is a basis for making informed decisions and taking immediate action, and it is a road to citizen driven policy development. It a means to an end, a crucial step in ensuring collective participation and community- based sustainable natural resource management.