TALE FROM THE FIELD
Wetland restoration in Zambia
Saziso Moyo, ICF/EWT African Crane Conservation Project Assistant
Wetlands are important food, materials, and freshwater sources and play various ecological functions. Important socioeconomic and cultural services are derived from wetlands, including pasture for livestock grazing; and traditional ceremonies such as the Kuomboka. Wetlands also provide other ecosystem services such as maintaining good water quality by acting as filters, recharging groundwater, storing carbon, recycling soil nutrients, and preventing soil erosion by acting as soil control. They are also important habitats for biological diversity.
For this reason, the International Crane Foundation/Endangered Wildlife Trust Partnership in Zambia (ICF/EWT) was part of this year’s wetlands day celebrations in Lochinvar National Park. The event was led by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR) in collaboration with different stakeholders, including the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), Bird Watch Zambia, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), and Zambia Sugar. The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Honorable Elijah Muchima, was the Guest of Honor and joined by four Traditional Leaders from the Kafue Flats namely Chief Nalubamba, Chief Hamusonde, Chief Choongo, and Chieftainess Muwezwa. Other senior Government officials included the Provincial Permanent Secretary, Dr Namani Moonze, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Lands, Mrs Daphne Chabu, and representatives of the Departments of Forestry and Department of Climate Change. The national Focal Point for the Convention on Wetlands was also in attendance.
The event started with a courtesy call on His Royal Highness Chief Hamusonde at his palace, where all four chiefs gathered. A series of events followed, which included a march by the pupils from Lochinvar Primary School accompanied by their teachers and members of various organisations that attended the event. The hosting Chief, His Royal Highness Chief Hamusonde, gave the welcoming remarks, and in his speech, he expressed happiness that the four chiefs could come together and celebrate this important day.
As one of a series of speeches that followed, ICF/EWT Southern African Regional Manager, Mwape Sichilongo, echoed the importance of the Kafue Flats and emphasised the need to act now to protect wetlands. He called upon the government to invest more in regulating the use of our environment so that our economic aspirations do not unnecessarily compromise environmental integrity and he also asked the government to maintain areas set aside for conservation to preserve their ecosystem services on which local livelihoods and other economic activities depend. Chief Nalubamba, as Chairperson of the Southern Province Chiefs Council, challenged the crowd to think of ways to balance the people’s competing needs and what the wetland needs for restoration to take place. He also asked the government to set aside US$ 2 million to restore the Kafue Flats as it was facing serious degradation and threatening the ecosystem and local livelihoods.
The Honorable Minister of Lands and Natural Resources spoke about the importance of the Government and traditional leaders working together to combat poaching that has been ongoing in the Flats for some time. He applauded ICF/EWT for their great work removing the invasive Mimosa Pigra to restore the Kafue Flats.
Traditional dancers from the Ila community of Choongo Chiefdom entertained the gathering. They performed educative dances and songs about conserving nature and its wonderful benefits, songs of praise for the traditional leaders, and many others. School children sang songs and presented poems about the conservation of wetlands, including the words, “the animals of the wild are free to move around. Please don’t stop patrolling the park and continue to support the patrols.” The peer educators also performed a play to educate people on the dangers of poaching.