Collaborating for a desired future: Negotiating landscape change in Kalomo District, Zambia

Jive Mulandano (Research Assistant, CIFOR), Joli Borah (Post doctoral fellow, University of British Columbia), Alida O’Connor (PhD Researcher, University of British Columbia), Freddie Siangulube (PhD Researcher, University of Amsterdam), Malaika Yanou (PhD Researcher, University of Amsterdam), Mike Simbeleko (Research Assistant, CIFOR).

Joli Rumi Borah, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, UBC
Alida O’Connor, PhD Student, UBC

It is early afternoon in Choma, the capital of the Southern Province of Zambia. The air is hot and humid and the clouds are heavy with rain. It is the wet season, and lush green Miombo woodland spans both sides of the main Lusaka to Livingstone road. Cattle herds weave through the woodland, grazing as they go. Charcoal in large bags and basins of forest mushrooms for sale dot the roadside. We are here to participate in a “Theory of Change” (ToC) workshop with stakeholders with interests in the Kalamo landscape.

Representatives from various government departments and Kalomo’s three Chiefdoms begin to stream into the workshop venue. People make their way over to Chief Chikanta, Chief Siachitema, and Chief Sipatunyana, kneel and shake their hands in a respectful greeting. The participants, a group of nearly 40, chat among each other as they take their seats at the table. Everyone has gathered for the two-day workshop, the most recent activity organized by the COLANDS team.

Collaborating to Operationalize Landscape Approaches for Nature, Development and Sustainability (COLANDS) is a five-year program that aims to understand how landscape approaches can potentially resolve competing land-use challenges to reconcile livelihood, environmental and biodiversity goals. The ToC workshop is a participatory tool for stakeholders in Kalomo District to build a common understanding of present challenges in the landscape and a shared vision for a better future. The main questions participants will discuss over the duration of the workshop are “Where do we want to go collectively?” and “How do we get there?”.

The workshop is hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Zambia team and facilitated by COLANDS team members James Reed (CIFOR), Kaala Moombe (CIFOR), Davison Gumbo (CIFOR) and Colas Chervier (CIRAD). Also present are members of the COLANDS team from the University of British Columbia and the University of Amsterdam. The session begins with a round robin of self-introduction. The group is diverse, with representatives from Kalomo’s government departments, such as forestry, social welfare, water, livestock, national parks and wildlife, district administration, and organizations such as Care International and Zambia’s Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) forum. Kalomo’s three Chiefs and Headman from five communities are also in attendance.

What are the challenges and consequences for the Kalomo landscape?

As a warm-up activity, all participants are asked to anonymously jot down what they perceive to be the key land use challenges in Kalomo. A list of approximately 35 issues is generated, with weak institutional linkages, charcoal production, deforestation, overgrazing, and lack of awareness being the most commonly mentioned. After a lunch break of nshima (the staple carbohydrate in Zambia made with maize meal and water) and meats and vegetables, three breakout groups form. Each group discusses the causes and consequences of the perceived land use challenges. The groups consist of diverse stakeholders, representing different communities and sectors, yet the conversation flows easily, and participants unanimously agree on the major land use challenges. Poor institutional coordination (across departments, between state and customary law, and government and communities), as well as ready markets for tobacco and charcoal, and agriculture dominate the discussion.

At the end of the day, the groups come together to share the land use challenges and related consequences. Participants describe how poor coordination leads to inefficient service delivery, duplication of work across departments, and contradicting government action. Untangling these interrelated issues forms the foundation for the following day’s agenda.

Where do we go from here and how?

It is an early morning start on Day Two. The workshop kicks off with the participants working in two groups to visualise the desired future state of Kalomo, i.e. what does the ideal Kalomo landscape look like? The shared vision for a better future includes rivers flowing again, bringing back forests, fertile soils and improved livelihoods. Achieving this desired state requires identifying clear pathways consisting of short, medium and long-term goals. This proves to be significantly harder than the Day One activities and the discussions are intense, however the groups push on and delve deeper in their deliberations.

The two groups eventually reconvene to share their goals. Short-term goals identified include better collaboration and coordination between traditional leaders and state representatives, communication across departments, and building capacity for multi-stakeholder platforms. Achieving the short-term activities leads to the medium-term goals, such as finding synergies between state and customary law, clearly defining rights over natural resources and their resulting benefits, and participatory and inclusive decision making in natural resource management. Meeting the medium-term goals will foster an environment for long-term goals such as promoting climate smart and conservation agriculture, clearly defined Chiefdom boundaries, benefit sharing with local communities, and an integrated planning framework.

The Chiefs offer their feedback to the proposed pathways, bringing attention to two important points: benefits and sustainability. Chief Chikanta speaks of his experience promoting sustainable land use in his Chiefdom and the need for people to benefit from what they are protecting. This raises the question: What is a “benefit”? This is a question best answered by community members, and will help address other land use challenges. For example, lack of awareness at the community level, one of the most frequently mentioned issues, was later unpacked in group discussions.

Participants explained it was not a lack of awareness of existing policies and regulations over natural resources, but more so being unaware of management options for enhancing long-term sustainability of natural resources. They also explained people overlook regulations to meet immediate priorities, such as food, income, and harvesting wood and grasses to construct cattle kraals and maize storage facilities. Understanding what communities need to meet their day to day needs and what they consider a benefit is critical for effective land use management.

The second point the Chiefs emphasize is ensuring long-term sustainability of the landscape approach process. This sparks a conversation about a stakeholder absent from the workshop; the private sector. Communities and government can work towards policy harmonization and improved collaboration, but meaningful private sector partnerships could support medium and long-term objectives such as climate smart agriculture and reforestation. Furthermore, private sectors like tobacco and charcoal are very embedded in local livelihoods and shape land use in the area.

Looking Forward

After two days of fruitful discussions, the workshop comes to a close. Necessary next steps include sharing the results from the workshop with communities and assigning roles and responsibilities to start working towards the goals identified by the participants. This will require ongoing collaboration and dialogue among all stakeholders. The COLANDS team will continue to act as an integrated landscape management broker of sorts, and further facilitate opportunities for multi-stakeholder dialogue and collaboration. Watch this space.