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By Friday Phiri-Lusaka, Zambia
Zambia is regarded as one of the highly forested countries whose forests cover accounts for about 60% of the total land area estimated at 64 million hectares. The total area of indigenous forest in Zambia is estimated at 44.6 million hectares, covering 60 % of the total land area.
However, Zambia’s deforestation rate is alarmingly high. According to recent data by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Zambia’s deforestation rate currently stands at between 250 to 300 thousand hectares of land per year.
In fact, Environmental experts have warned that Zambia’s forests risk becoming deserts in the next fifteen years going by the current rate of deforestation.
But why are people cutting trees indiscriminately? In Zambia, there are several reasons: clearing of land for farming is one factor, but logging for timber and cutting trees for firewood and charcoal making rank top on the causes.
A quick analysis of energy sources in Zambia reveals that about 90 percent of the population use charcoal related sources of energy, thereby making charcoal burning a lucrative business venture and major source of livelihood for many people.
A further analysis reveals that the reverse of the above argument is also true where only an estimated 25 percent of the country’s population is connected to electricity. This, compounded by erratic power supply through load shedding, forces even the most affluent communities to resort to charcoal as a source of energy.
Surely, the ground is fertile for a thriving charcoal business. After all, for many rural households, earning a living from farming and selling firewood and charcoal are essential to survival.
Jerome Banda, a farmer in Rufunsa, 150 kilometers east of the capital, Lusaka, has been dealing in charcoal burning for supplementary income to purchase farming inputs, pay school fees and other emergencies as they arise. Living miles away from the city, Banda’s business thrives on demand from the city dwellers who are major consumers of charcoal.
Banda, a father of five, recalls how he was forced to get into mass production of charcoal.
“At the beginning, I used to sell up to five 50 kg bags for a specific problem such as school fees for children or an emergency medical bill”, explains Banda.
“But one day, I was approached by a certain businessman from Lusaka, who told me to produce fifty bags of charcoal for him and the money I earned changed my perspective of the charcoal business such that I almost stopped farming but for my wife”.
Banda’s sentiments represent the realities of the problem of deforestation in Zambia. It is a double edged sword. At one level, Banda clears land for his farming activity while he needs another chunk of forest for his charcoal burning. For Banda and many others, it is about livelihood.
Zambia’s Immediate Past Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Wilbur Simuusa lamented this fact during his recent address to the country’s law making body, the National Assembly.
“Mr. Speaker, Charcoal production is the major driver of deforestation in our country. Cognisant of the fact that charcoal is the major source of livelihood for many of our citizens, and a source of domestic energy for over ninety percent of our population, we need to address the matter with care”.
From the tone of the Minister, it is clear that protecting forests/environment on one hand and facilitating better livelihood for all, represents a serious dilemma for the Zambian government.
Forest management, charcoal production, transportation, retailing and consumption are usually identified as the five key components in the charcoal value chain.
But how involved are the different stakeholders in decision making processes that affect their sources of livelihood?
“From time in memorial, our fore fathers taught us to defend and use forests for our benefit”, laments 65 year old Elena Banda of Nyimba district in Eastern Zambia.
“But our worry is that we see truckloads of timber poles trekking to the city in the name of government but we don’t see any benefit to us. That is why we also cut and burn charcoal for survival, after all government does not care for us”.
Grandma Banda’s blame on government’s alleged sidelining of the local people and lack of proper social support safety nets represents the frustrations of the local people on how they are neglected in the management and usage of local resources.
And the Immediate Past Zambian Minister of Lands acknowledges this poor interface between government and different actors who depend on forests for their livelihood and also at various stages of the charcoal value chain.
“We have realised that dealing with this issue only at policy level is not enough. It is for this reason that the Ministry will in September this year (2013), convene a national charcoal ‘Indaba’-(conference), to analyse the charcoal value chains and together, identify the points of intervention”, says the Minister.
It is the hope of all stakeholders that the Indaba will adequately address the key question of protecting forests on one hand, and facilitating for a better livelihood for all. Key questions surrounding accessibility of reliable clean energy sources by all would also present stakeholders a point of reflection.
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, (PAMACC News) – Dr Mana Boubakari, Technical Director, Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), has said insurgency and its impact are challenges to effective groundwater management in the region.
Boubakari said this at an event on the sideline of the ongoing sixth Africa Water Week in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania on Wednesday.
He said it was sad to note that these challenges were worsened by the population growth in the region following inflow of refugees.
He said no fewer than nine million people live in the region, whose livelihood depended on the depleting lake.
According to him, if the problems of the basin are not addressed more conflicts and violence will erupt in the area.
`` The activities of Boko Haram, effect of climate change, flooding, drought has caused poor yield in farming, displacement of communities, unemployment and poverty.
``The countries in Lake Chad Basin Commission need to sit down together and look at ways of enforcing best practices to maintain and protect the water treasures that we have.’’
Boubakari said the effect of global warming and inefficient management of the watershed had caused the displacement of both pastoralists and fishermen who depended on the water.
He said urgent efforts were needed to scale up access to water in the region since the lake was shrinking daily.
He said appealed to all the nine member-states to ratify the water charter in the basin to enable it meet rising water demand.
Boubakari added that the commission was embarking on a campaign to save the region in line with the LCBC Common Vision 2025, and in the five-year investment plan.
While commending activities of the Multi-National Joint Force, which is fighting the insurgents in the region, the technical director called for more effort to secure the region and its infrastructure.
Prof. Ibrahim Goni, from the University of Maiduguri, also stressed the need to manage the basin saying it is the only source of ground water for the people.
He cited the lack in coordination between institutions managing water resources in the region as a big challenge.
Goni added that deforestation should be discouraged by all to protect the region from continued depletion.
The event, organised by the African Ministers Council on Water, (AMCOW), aspires to lay the building blocks to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goal on provision of adequate and equitable access to safe water and sanitation for all by 2030.
It equally represents AMCOW’s belief that effective and efficient management of water resources leads to the provision of adequate and equitable access to safe water and sanitation.
The Africa Water Week series began in Tunis, Tunisia in 2008.
By Elias Ntungwe Ngalame
DAR ES SALAAM (PAMACC News) - The water and sanitation challenges that confront Africa are not new. What is new however in the growing determination by development actors to stand to the different challenges heads on.
The 6th Africa Water Week in Dar es Salaam July 18-22, 2016 provided the right opportunity for researchers, civil society actors, government officials to show how determined the different actors are to find lasting solutions to the age old water and sanitation problems in the continent.
It also provided the opportunity to share experiences on different pathways to sound hygiene in water management and success stories that could be replicated in other countries.
According to Pierce Cross, senior advisor USAID, the problems of access to water and sanitation in Africa are stark and cut across the different countries. He thus called for a comprehensive plan of action to accompany demonstrated political will by different African government and other actors to improve on the situation.
“Demonstrated political will must be accompanied by concrete action plans to move the water and sanitation commitment forward,” said Piers Cross at a side-event discussion under the theme “The AfricaSan Commitment on Sanitation and Hygiene and the SGDs on July 20th 2016.
The discussions accordingly aimed at deepening the ownership and monitoring the commitment by different governments to improve on water sanitation and hygiene.
Experts called for heightened behavior change and the establishment of a community driven culture to ensure better treatment of water for consumption to reduce the risk of contamination and disease.
“We have frequently advise for better treatment of water before consumption by local communities. The carrying out of frequent water tests to ensure its safety from all types of contaminants is imperative,” says Sophie Hicklings development consultant in Kenya.
She cautions that even piped water from public systems can pick up impurities during distribution, thus the need for effective monitoring and control.
Experts recommended defluoridation process that will help reduce the possibilities of contracting waterborne diseases.
Waterborne diseases experts cautioned are fast killers. According to WHO diseases like cholera, dysentery and typhoid fever are common in many countries in Africa, rooted in poor water treatment systems. Other nasty and almost equally dangerous diseases from water include as salmonella, diarrhoea, Hepatitis A among others.
These diseases, in most cases experts say, erupt in heavily congested, unsanitary squatter areas in urban centres or in rural villages where water is drawn from unconventional places like ponds, rivers etc.
The ailments accordingly are caused by pathogenic microorganisms that most commonly are transmitted in contaminated fresh water. Infections commonly results during bathing, washing, drinking or consumption of unclean, infected food.
Reason to Hope
But all is not gloomy as there are considerable efforts on the ground by development organizations working in partnership with governments and local communities to improve on water sanitation.
In a press briefing on the sidelines of the 6thAfrica Water Week , July 21, Lydia Zigomo, head of WaterAid, East Africa region pointed out that efforts by WaterAid to improve on education in local communities was bringing positive results in water hygiene.
“The collective progress of any community depends greatly on the education of its people and Water Aid is leaving no stone unturned in this direction,” Lydia Zigomo said.
She said emphasis is laid on education and sensitization because “the more the population receive quality education the more benefits the communities reap especially in sanitation and good health.”
She expressed optimism with better health care delivery that was increasingly gathering momentum in many African countries on a global scale in line with the new sustainable development agenda.
The 6th Africa Water Week, organized by African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW) in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC) and other development partners, seeks accordingly, to lay pathways for Africa’s drive towards achieving the SDG 6, with emphases on water and sanitation