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Fostering Community Engagement to Achieve Sustainable Tourism and Conservation

By Salima Mvula

As a developing nation Zambia faces many challenges, one of which is high poverty rates. A significant portion of Zambia’s population lives below the poverty line, and addressing this poverty remains a major hurdle to economic prosperity.

Some of the populations hardest hit by poverty are in rural Zambia, in small towns like Sinazongwe.  In this town on the north shore of Lake Kariba, many residents rely on agriculture as a source of income. Before European colonization, various indigenous ethnic groups in what is now Zambia engaged in subsistence farming. They cultivated a variety of crops, including maize, millet, sorghum, yam, and vegetables, as well as practiced livestock rearing, primarily cattle and goats.

In a place like Sinazongwe, not much has changed. However, like many other towns and villages in Zambia’s southern province climate change rears its ugly head, affecting agriculture, water resources, and food security.

Thankfully, Zambia contains a wealth of natural resources that play a great role in driving its economic growth. Let’s zero in on Prospero Limited; a not-for-profit company that specialises in supporting innovative private sector growth and inclusive economic development. They have implemented initiatives that promote economic prosperity while preserving our natural assets by fostering sustainable tourism and conservation efforts. One of their goals is to help Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) raise finance that allows them to introduce new products, services, or business models that deliver profitable growth for the business and have a wider, positive impact on sector value chains. In other words, they help small businesses grow.

Someone who knows this well is Prospero Initiative Assistant, Andrew Yamishi. In an interview, Andrew noted the importance of enterprise-led initiatives that include local communities to sustainably develop our natural assets. He explained that Prospero works with various stakeholders to create an enabling environment that attracts investments in Zambia’s natural assets. Through these collaborative management partnerships, greater financial, environmental, and development impact can be leveraged through inclusive and climate-sensitive commercialisation of our natural assets.

Zambia’s natural assets are the most important feature of its overall sector competitiveness, forming the backbone of the country’s climate value and overall economic sustainability. Ensuring that the country’s natural assets and biodiversity are both conserved and commercialised anchors the sector’s wide economic benefits. It also underpins its future growth and provides a platform for growth in other sectors. The protection, conservation, and management of these natural assets are, therefore, essential for the survival and sustainable growth of the tourism sector over both the shorter and longer terms. This will ensure that the benefits derived from these natural resources accrue to and meet the needs of both the present and future generations within the context of sustainable development.

Andrew further explained that Prospero partners with private sector entities that have their business models centered around artisanal and natural products. The entities engage the communities, helping them create sustainable livelihoods from these assets through capacity building and training on the importance of conserving their natural assets and using sustainable sourcing methods that are not destructive. Through these partnerships, the communities will have a means of generating income while the businesses maintain a stable supply of raw materials.  The aim is to grow more formal and commercial value chains of artisanal and natural products and strengthen livelihood opportunities that enhance the impact of carbon projects and promote inclusive tourism development.  

Super Valley Organic Foods Limited, an enterprise under this initiative has engaged rural dwellers in Sinazongwe district to promote the conservation of forests through capacity building and training on forest fruit harvesting. In an interview with Super Valley CEO and Founder Emmanuel Manyepa, he noted that they process indigenous fruits purchased from community members to promote conservation, whilst reducing rural poverty.

“Largely in Zambia, the livelihood of the rural dweller involves farming which has become capital intensive. To grow a hectare of maize farmers would need up to 10,000 Kwacha which they do not have, and as a result, they resort to forest-degrading practices like deforestation for charcoal production or timber,” Emmanuel noted.

He added that to prevent these degrading practices they have trained over 5000 Sinazongwe community members on sustainable methods of harvesting wild fruits such as baobab, masuku, and tamarind. These fruits are processed into finished goods in the form of oils, jams, and organic fruit juices which provides them with a sustainable alternative source of income.

Community engagement plays a pivotal role in fostering sustainable tourism and conservation efforts in Zambia. By actively involving communities in conservation projects a great collaborative effort in the preservation of natural resources is formed. Through trainings such as those conducted by Super Valley Foods in which jobs are created, and there is a wealth of knowledge sharing, communities become stakeholders in safeguarding their surroundings.

Additionally, involving communities empowers them economically which creates a sense of pride and ownership in protecting their environment, ultimately paving the way for a more sustainable tourism industry in Zambia.


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