Bangweulu means “where the water meets the sky”, which is a perfect description of this extraordinary community-owned protected wetland in north-eastern Zambia
Bangweulu means ‘where water meets the sky’, which is a perfect description for these globally important and stunning wetlands in Zambia. This extraordinarily rich and diverse ecosystem is home to 400 bird species including the shoebill stork, a host of ungulates like the endemic black lechwe, carnivores like jackals and hyenas, crocodiles and at least 80 fish species. Uniquely, Bangweulu is a community-owned protected wetland made up of Game Management Areas (GMAs) and is legally home to 50,000 people who retain the right to sustainably harvest its natural resources. However, years of unsustainable human pressure depleted Bangweulu’s wildlife and fish stocks. In 2008, the wetland’s trajectory shifted when the six Community Resource Boards (CRBs) who own the land entered into a long-term agreement with African Parks and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) with the vision to sustainably manage and protect their natural assets long into the future.
Since then, many advances have taken place: poaching has been largely contained, and the black lechwe population, a critical source of protein for Bangweulu’s vulnerable communities, has increased from 35,000 to over 50,000. Schools have been built and supported, and children are getting an education using solar-powered ZeduPads, pre-loaded tablets with multiple curriculums in over 13 languages. Bangweulu’s healthcare programme targeted towards women to assist with family planning is in its fourth year and in large demand; and for the sixth year in a row, fish bans are being strictly adhered to and fish stocks have been able to recover, producing substantial quotas year on year and providing communities with needed food security and additional revenue. There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that Bangweulu continues to provide for the next generations, but through effective management and strong community engagement, people are now taking part in and planning for their future, recognizing their livelihoods are linked to a thriving wetland.
The Bangweulu Wetlands Project is managed via a partnership between African Parks, the Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), and six Community Resource Boards (CRBs) that have jurisdiction over the project area. The Bangweulu Wetlands Management Board was established in 2008 after local communities—through their Chiefs, CRBs, and advisors—invited African Parks to become the private sector management partner for the Bangweulu Wetlands Project. The Board is comprised of representatives from the six local communities, African Parks, and the DNPW. This combination ensures that stakeholders at the heart of the project—the people who live and work in and around Bangweulu—play a meaningful role in managing their homelands.View Partners
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