Zambia’s rivers and lakes support the livelihoods of about 3 million people – a quarter of the population. Most of the people living in these areas suffer from poverty, malnutrition, marginalization from social services and disease.

The Barotse Floodplain in the Western Province of Zambia is one of the three focus areas for the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS), led by WorldFish. The AAS Program aims to increase agricultural and fish production, and improve the value chains for fish and other products.

AAS focuses on establishing successful partnerships with global, national and local organizations to achieve its goals. Some of these partnerships include the People’s Participation Service (PPS), Caritas Mongu, and the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE).

Fines Nasilele, Program Coordinator at PPS, a coalition of farmers’ groups in the Western Province, sees a natural synergy between the PPS and the AAS approach to addressing the complex problems facing the region, “We have come to realize that we agree in almost all our key areas of operation and our common goal of realizing the potential of the Barotse Flood Plain,”.

In the Barotse, the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE), a monarchy, is recognized as the governing authority. Mwangelwa Akapelwa Silumbu, a senior BRE leader, manages water development in the floodplain and believes the partnership with the program is helping his people to maintain their traditions.

“We already have the indigenous way of preserving our natural resources, hence we believe that the partnership with WorldFish and AAS will help us to revive and improve the lost value of our traditional know-how of natural resource preservation,” he explains. The partnership will help improve crop diversity, waterways management for irrigation and fish farming and livestock breeding.