Community Development

To preserve the wetlands for the benefit of people and wildlife, African Parks works with the six communities to sustainably manage Bangweulu’s resources such as fisheries, beekeeping and lechwe harvesting for protein, thus supporting a system where communities are the stewards for the natural resources found in the area. Health and education programmes and community development projects enhance local livelihoods, positioning Bangweulu as the nucleus of a growing conservation-led economy.

Community Engagement

© Mana Meadows
African Parks staff engages with community members who live around Bangweulu

Community engagement takes place across the six chiefdoms through their respective Community Resource Boards and a network of community development facilitators. Regular meetings are held with all six chiefs to nurture these important relationships.

After an extensive consultation process with DNPW and all stakeholders in the Bangweulu General Management Area (GMA), the Bangweulu General Management Plan, which guides the overall management of the GMA, was signed by all six chiefdoms. More than 177 meetings took place with the general community in 2023.

Education and Environmental Awareness

Bangweulu aims to provide quality education that supports economic and social transformation while raising awareness on environmental issues. Currently, some 39 students received scholarships, including those studying medicine, nursing and teaching.

Twice a year, students from Muwele Primary School come to Chikuni for a Global Birding Big Day in the swamps. The impact of this experience highlights the importance of exposing local children to the landscapes in which they live. In 2023, over 40 species of birds were recorded on each day by the schoolchildren who loved the experience.

Small events such as wildlife art competitions and excursions to the swamps to view lechwe and shoebill contributed to vital environmental education and outreach.

The Modular Centre in Kabinga was opened in 2022 to advance computer skills for hundreds of children. In addition, students and teachers have been trained to use solar-powered pre-loaded tablets called ZeduPads, which enhance teaching and learning. In partnership with Book Aid International (BAI) and Zambia Library Service (ZLS), small school libraries have been established in over 50 primary schools.

Sustainable Enterprise Development

© Steve Lorenz
Community members in Bangweulu benefit from enterprise development initiatives.

Bangweulu’s robust livelihood programme helps people diversify their incomes through a range of enterprise development projects such as beekeeping, fisheries management, sustainable farming training, and chicken and goat-rearing projects.

With fishing being one of the main sources of revenue and protein for Bangweulu’s communities, it is essential that this resource is protected in a way that allows people to harvest without depleting supplies. While more work is needed to revise the Fishery Management Plan and ensure that communities are fully included, the community engagement programmes have continued to promote fishery regulations which have enhanced compliance with the fishing ban, and reduced the use of mosquito nets to catch fish.

To further natural product utilisation in the communities and ensure sustainable harvesting, a partnership was formed with CIFOR-ICRAF (Centre for International Forestry Research & World Agroforestry) to work on developing value chains for resources such as mushrooms, and caterpillars.

Community Infrastructure Development

A Community Development Fund provides financial resources to support several important infrastructure projects including the renovation of health facilities, creation of teacher housing, and a marketplace building. A Reproductive Health Programme launched in 2016, receiving overwhelming support from communities, and today, Bangweulu partners with Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP) to promote reproductive health programmes. The project includes mobile health clinics, and conducts family-planning sessions and reproductive health and awareness programmes for the youth, benefitting thousands of community members. Each year, new youth groups are formed to further outreach on reproductive health.

Sustainable Resource Use

Under Zambian law, sustainable hunting of black lechwe is allowed in Bangweulu Wetlands. To ensure this is done in order to deliver benefits to communities while effectively managing lechwe populations, the Bangweulu Wetlands Management Board uses sound scientific and management techniques to oversee the initiative. Funds generated from lechwe hunting are injected back into the region, providing for communities and helping to support overall conservation efforts as well as community development for the area. Overall the benefits of lechwe off-takes are multi-pronged as not only has the population of black lechwe increased under this management approach, but an affordable protein source is provided to communities while community income generating opportunities are supported through the production and sale of leather products obtained from the harvesting.