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Collaborating for a shared future: Negotiating landscape change in Zambia

Participatory and inclusive decision-making in natural resource management
Theories of Change Workshop group discussion. CIFOR/Handout

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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. About 40 people, including three tribal chiefs, headmen from five communities, government officials and scientists specializing in landscapes have gathered to find common ground within a shared landscape.

These stakeholders, who share an interest in the Kalomo landscape in Southern Province, have been brought together for a Theory of Change (ToC) workshop organized by Collaborating to Operationalise Landscape Approaches for Nature, Development and Sustainability (COLANDS). This five-year program is attempting to understand how landscape approaches can contribute to resolving competing land-use challenges in order to reconcile livelihood, environmental and biodiversity goals. ToC is a decision-support tool used to develop long-term goals and then map out the pathways needed to achieve them.

COLANDS team members are encouraging Kalomo stakeholders to build a common understanding of challenges in the landscape and develop a shared vision for a better future. Much of the work comes down to three key questions for participants: What are the current land use challenges? Where do we want to go collectively? And, how do we get there?

Working in sub-groups comprised of diverse stakeholders, representing different communities and sectors, conversation flows easily and participants unanimously agree on the major land-use challenges  – particularly, poor institutional coordination across departments, between state and customary law, and between government and communities. That, in turn, leads to duplication of work and inefficient delivery of services. Another significant concern shared by many relates to increasing deforestation  that is being driven by tobacco curing and charcoal production, over-grazing and broader concerns with regard to agriculture.

Devising a shared vision for Kalomo brings participants together, to imagine rivers flowing again, restored forests and fertile soils — all leading to improved livelihoods. The harder part, they agree, will be to then transform their vision into pathways towards achieving these goals.

In the short-term, goals include better collaboration and coordination between traditional leaders and state representatives, communication across departments, and building capacity for multi-stakeholder platforms. Over the medium-term, the aim is to find synergies between state and customary law; clearly defining rights over natural resources and the benefits that result; and participatory and inclusive decision-making in natural resource management. From there, it’s possible to imagine such longer-term goals as promoting climate-smart and conservation agriculture, clearly defined boundaries for Chiefdoms, benefit-sharing with local communities, and an integrated planning framework.

During the meetings, Kalomo’s three hereditary chiefs – Chikanta, Siachitema and Sipatunyana –highlight how important it is that their people derive benefits from the resources they are protecting, as well as ensuring the long-term sustainability of the landscape approach.

They have also noted the absence of the private-sector from the workshop. Although communities and government can work towards policy harmonization and improved collaboration, meaningful private-sector partnerships could help to support longer-term objectives. These can include climate-smart agriculture and reforestation, as well as providing potential for sustainable investments and income generation. The private sector is already embedded in local livelihoods through the tobacco and charcoal sectors, and in this way shape land use in the area.

Next steps include participants taking the results from the workshop back to their communities and colleagues before beginning the hard work of co-producing action plans and monitoring frameworks that will support the achievement of the shared goals defined during the workshop.

COLANDS is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).

Ph.D. research is hosted at the Faculty of Forestry of the University of British Columbia and the Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR) of the University of Amsterdam.

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Topic(s) :   Climate change Food security