The South Luangwa – Zambia’s Untapped Economic Ecosystem | WWF Zambia

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The South Luangwa – Zambia’s Untapped Economic Ecosystem

Zambia’s South Luangwa national park and Game Management Area (GMA) could be described as one of the world’s most fascinating national parks due to the serene co-existence between wildlife and humans. The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife that can be easily spotted around the Luangwa River. The Luangwa River is both the bridge and border that sustains both the national park (wildlife) and the Game Management Area (people). The reality of staying in a Game Management Area has generated a lot of anti-poaching innovations among the communities in the South Luangwa due to the realisation of the value of wildlife. From the early years when  most communities in the GMA survived through the sale of game meat to the current situation where tourist activities employ about 1,000 local people, the appreciation of conservation and tourism has increased.

Luangwa sunset

During my recent visit to one of the non-governmental organisations working in the South Luangwa known as Conservation South Luangwa (CSL), I learnt of CSL’s innovative conflict prevention programmes. The core programmes is managed through an agribusiness model that protects and preserves wildlife and humans as well as generating income for the local community. The programme empowers members of the local community in the Game Management Area to cultivate crops that have local and international market and ones that are not edible by animals such as elephants and hippos.

It is evident that Conservation South Luangwa undertook intensive learning, research and site visits to other national parks within and outside Zambia in order to identify crops that are marketable and yet not edible by most animals. Visiting and listening to farmers who were solely dependent on the cultivation of maize with the challenges of managing conflict due to the fact most animals eat the crop, to the cultivation of crops such as lemon grass, chilli and turmeric, the shift has been made easier to the immediate profit generated from the sale of the new crops. The transformation has been impressive due to the practical results and examples of many homes whose lives are now financially sound than before.  Zambia and the international market would appreciate the organically cultivated and well packaged products from South Luangwa because they have demonstrated the highest level of a successful model that is fostering conservation and tourism as well as job and income security.

Stakeholder meeting in Luangwa

While still in the South Luangwa, my attention drifted to a news item about a meeting between American’s Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote and the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Tourism and Arts, Howard Sikwela.  The meeting revealed that the Luangwa is visited by around 40,000 American tourists annually contributing around US$37million; the attraction was due to the wider variety of wildlife with the Hippo being one of the prominent specie. 

Finally, the announcement and discussion of the possible construction of a hydro power dam to be called the Ndevu dam should be revisited if not abandoned.  The visit to the South Luangwa national park and the game management area shaped my profound appreciation on the rationale for naming the river and the national park - LUANGWA. The Luangwa River is a source of life for the entire South Luangwa ecosystem. Any attempt to disrupt the free flow of the Luangwa River could be devastating because the forest, wildlife and humans all look to the river for life. I am still wondering how such a national gem could be disrupted in the name of investment – the decision would cause irreparable damage to Zambia’s tourism and conservation plus the many lives that depend the Luangwa River. Investment in the energy sector is important to Zambia, our young manufacturing industry requires energy but our choice of the type of energy should also be made in light of climate change and the loss of nature.