The Politics of wellbeing, conservation and development in Chiawa, Zambia

The Politics of wellbeing, conservation and development in Chiawa, Zambia

The challenge of reconciling competing demands for national economic growth, wildlife conservation and the wellbeing of local communities is widely recognised. In Chiawa, Zambia 2013 this challenge is particularly acute, as a new highway and bridge promise to reverse the area’s historical marginality, promoting it as a premier site for safari tourism and agri-business. High profile conflicts over land rights, however, indicate local people’s fears that this will accelerate dispossession, with profits accruing to outsiders and the community seeing little if any benefit.

New research on wellbeing and poverty in Chiawa provides a novel perspective on these issues. Quantitative and qualitative evidence present local people’s struggles to piece livelihoods together amidst a pervasive experience of insecurity and powerlessness. However, the community understanding of wellbeing and its strong ethic of care and reciprocity constitutes an important resource for building a positive and inclusive future.

This breifing paper makes the following recommendations:

  • for livelihoods in struggle - the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock should investigate how small-holder agriculture in Chiawa can be made more viable,  with appropriate crops; potential for irrigation; conservation practices; fencing and other means to defend against predation from animals; marketing of produce.  Also, the Ministry of Tourism and the Arts should devise plans for appropriate long term support to develop local capacity for eco-tourist management and marketing

  • for resource conflicts - the Department of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection should give urgent attention to the issue of land alienation and the proper safeguarding of local people’s rights, including the potential restoration of alienated lands into community control. The World Bank and other donors who insisted on the land market reform should recognise the many structural problems with the 1995 Lands Act and its implementation

  • for wellbeing - a participatory commission should be set up with representation of those involved in the governance of Chiawa at all levels, safari lodges, NGOs, and commercial farmers, plus representatives elected by zone from Chiawa villagers outside current governance structures. This should devise new mechanisms to promote local participation in decision-making and accountability for resource generation and use, with regular support and oversight to ensure the maximisation and sharing of benefits for the wellbeing of the people of Chiawa as a whole

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