Freddie Siangulube and Malaika Yanou

Related stories

Freddie Siangulube and Malaika Yanou are researchers and Ph.D. candidates with the Collaborating to Operationalize Landscape Approaches for Nature, Development and Sustainability (COLANDS) program. 

ZAMBIA – It quickly becomes very clear to visitors that agriculture is the backbone of the economy in the Kalomo District of southern Zambia. Arrivals are greeted with the simple but bold billboard announcement: “Welcome to Kalomo District. Our wealth is in maize and cattle.”

That declaration is supported by stories from long-time residents of the many villages dotting the district, who reminisce about its glory days when farmers thrived with good maize harvests from the fertile soil and large herds of cattle.

“Not anymore!” snaps Teditious Chikwikwi, the head man in Habulile village, which lies in Kalomo District in Zambia’s Southern Province. There are so many people in this place now; and everyone wants to do what they want to in order to earn a living.”

Similar concerns over how landscapes are being used and shared in the district are being expressed and conflicts have flared. That includes a dramatic situation around a district forest reserve, where government forestry officials considered evicting communities that have moved into the protected forest area. Finding solutions to these competing land-use claims seems challenging.

This is where we come in.

   Kalomo District, Zambia. Photo by Malaika Yanou
   Kalomo District, Zambia. Photo by Malaika Yanou

With a group of our colleagues in the five-year Collaborating to Operationalize Landscape Approaches for Nature, Development and Sustainability (COLANDS) program, we are learning how landscape approaches can help.

Our work in Zambia is part of a larger, multi-country comparison of landscape approaches; that is, we mean to understand some of the tools these communities need to better manage the land, resolve often-bitter land-use disagreements, and support productive land uses as well as fulfill environmental and biodiversity goals.

If we can reconcile competing objectives for allocation and management of land, it could be possible to achieve a “triple bottom-line” of sorts, satisfying social, economic and environmental demands. That, in turn, is expected to improve livelihoods and the resilience of communities to climate change, perhaps providing a template for use in other areas at other times.

   Kalomo District, Zambia. Photo by Malaika Yanou

As part of our research, we have been speaking with a wide variety of people in nine villages in and around the Kalomo Hills Forest Reserve in Kalomo District, a six-hour drive from Zambia’s capital city Lusaka. We’ve been hearing from various actors involved with the institutions of landscape governance and concerned about local livelihoods, water scarcity, animal disease, biodiversity conservation and development.

This leaves us with a deep sense that Kalomo is truly a melting pot of cultures with a significant diversity of opinions and interests. Gradually, we also become aware of less-visible realities and power dynamics as we speak with headmen, youth and women which helps us to develop a more complete picture of the complex knowledge systems and dynamic relationships in this landscape.

Many people we speak with complain of inadequate land-use planning, gaps in representation from the village level, and of institutions working in isolation from each other. These, they say, are among the larger issues that are causing resource management conflicts at the landscape level.

Villagers who are predominantly crop farmers and livestock owners say that many issues have grown out of the uncoordinated management of landscape resources among various actors. The result has been high levels of deforestation, silting of rivers, insufficient pasture for grazing, as well as other types of conflicts.

Although we face some skepticism in our early meetings with senior Zambian officials, they help us form a mental “mosaic” of the landscapes in our study area of Kalomo. Noam Chongo, national coordinator of Zambia’s Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) Forum, emphasizes key issues in Kalomo that must be linked: gaps in knowledge of biodiversity; poverty due to poor livelihoods; and social problems ranging from migration and food security to boundary disputes.

   Kalomo District, Zambia. Photo by Malaika Yanou

For Evena Munsange, 45, who lives in Habulile village, located outside the Kalomo Hills Forest Reserve, access to firewood and water has become a huge challenge due to significant degradation of the forest resource base. Meanwhile, in Nkandazovu village – about 40 km away and inside the forest reserve – people say that conflicts with governments are increasing because more communities, searching for productive land, are moving from the margins of the forest reserve to inside its boundaries.

Nkandazovu villagers say they want meetings between their representatives and headmen with government officials to sort out what they see as misunderstandings. But part of the difficulty is finding neutral or trusted facilitators to bring the parties together and help to mediate between various interests and find fair solutions.

Chief Chikanta – one of three traditional chiefs whose jurisdictions intersect in the Kalomo Hills Forest Reserve – acknowledges the challenge is significant. “Problems of this magnitude (settlements inside the forest reserve) require all stakeholders to come together and ask serious questions about our history as a people,” he said, speaking in the Tonga language.

“Who is the forest, and the food production system of this area, for?” asked Chikanta, who shares management of the Kalomo District with two other traditional leaders: Chief Sipatunyana, from the south of the district; and Chief Siachitema who, like Chief Chikanta, is from the district’s northern parts.

   Kalomo District, Zambia. Photo by Malaika Yanou
   Kalomo District, Zambia. Photo by Malaika Yanou

Although Zambia’s Forestry Department had initially proposed evicting local communities from the forest reserve, it decided against, according to Cosmas Chiiba, district commissioner and chairperson of the District Coordinating Committee, an official government stakeholder platform. He is urging multi-stakeholder conversations.

“Letters of eviction were given to the (forest) residents by the District Forestry Office,” said Chiiba.

“Unfortunately, these were issued prematurely before engaging stakeholders. There is a need to engage government through the Ministry of Lands and Forestry (department) to see how best the residents can be assisted in the area. Schools are there in the area, clinics are there… so it’s upon us to come up with a suitable plan and that is why we are seeking more engagement and the involvement of government.”

People in some communities suggest that local and traditional rules should be used to resolve landscape management. Senior headman Milias Mwindilila of Mwindilila village, located outside the forest reserve, chairs a seven-member village committee that argues authority rests with a set of rules and regulations – both written and unwritten – to manage conflicts relating to land uses among community members; particularly, livestock farmers and charcoal producers.

These varied perspectives tell us that the various actors in the district are aware of  — and acknowledge — landscape approaches in some form. They are also creating opportunities to negotiate to find common interests in order to enhance landscape development planning while minimizing land-use conflicts. Governments and other formal organizations seem to see an “integrated landscape approach” as a framework for coordinated planning for multi-sectoral engagement, while communities’ narratives inherently uphold the approach as a means to facilitate conflict mediation concerning access to forest resources and water and to negotiate grazing land in communal landscapes.

This Ph.D. study is hosted at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR) of the University of Amsterdam.

All views are the authors own, and not those of the Center for International Forestry Research.
For more information on this topic, please contact James Reed at
Copyright policy:
We want you to share Forests News content, which is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). This means you are free to redistribute our material for non-commercial purposes. All we ask is that you give Forests News appropriate credit and link to the original Forests News content, indicate if changes were made, and distribute your contributions under the same Creative Commons license. You must notify Forests News if you repost, reprint or reuse our materials by contacting