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United against poverty: improving livelihoods on the Barotse Floodplain

A story of partnership from WorldFish for the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) theme P - Partnerships.
 
Aquatic Agricultural Systems are made up of fisheries, livestock keeping and other income  activities on the Barotse Floodplain. Livestock on the Zambezi, Barotse Floodplain. Photo by Georgina Smith, 2012.
In Zambia, the Zambezi River forms part of a landscape in which freshwater rivers, lakes and wetlands cover almost 20% of the country during the wet season.  The river is a spectacular tourist destination for anglers and wildlife buffs alike, but for Zambians, these waterways are the country’s food basket, supporting extensive agriculture, fisheries and livestock production. Around 3 million people – a quarter of the landlocked southern African country’s population – directly rely on these aquatic agriculture systems for their livelihoods. In a country where three quarters of the population live in poverty, bolstering the production capacity of the natural environment represents a tantalizing opportunity for economic growth and poverty alleviation.
 
The Barotse Floodplain in the Western Province of Zambia is one of the three hubs for the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS). The Program, led by WorldFish, has seen the recent establishment of a number of successful partnerships with global, national and local organizations and cultural establishments. In the Barotse Floodplain, the AAS Program is working with a number of organizations. Three of these based in the hub are the People’s Participation Service (PPS), Caritas Mongu (a partner to Catholic Relief Services), and the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE). The AAS Program is working to increase agricultural and fish production, and expand the markets for fish, rice and livestock in the area. Recognizing the strong cultural heritage of the region the leadership of the Barotse Royal Establishment is a crucial component of the program. All three partners bring an essential local perspective to the program, and feel that the partnership with the AAS Program provides a number of benefits.
 
Mr Fines Nasilele, Program Coordinator at PPS, a coalition of farmers’ groups in the Western Province, is especially pleased with the collaborative nature of the partnership. As he explains, “WorldFish has showcased the AAS Program clearly and has managed to bring us on board from stage to stage.” Mr Nasilele sees a natural synergy between the PPS the AAS approach to addressing the complex problems facing the region. “Our partnership with the AAS Program and is overwhelming, because we have come to realize that we agree in almost all our key areas of operation, these being the livelihood of people in the Barotse Floodplain, and our common goal of realizing the potential of the Barotse Flood Plain.”
 
The AAS program will address underlying gender norms such as discrimination and inequality down the value chains. Barotse floodplain, Zambia. Photo by Georgina Smith, 2012.
Caritas, a faith-based organization with a base in the Catholic Diocese of Mongu in the Western Province, has been working hard to alleviate poverty in Zambia through agriculture, food security and livelihoods. For Mr Albert Mulanda, Program Coordinator at Caritas Mongu, being a partner with a research organization like WorldFish is a significant asset in translating experience into sustained action. “Caritas Mongu considers its partnership with the AAS Program and WorldFish very seriously, because we realize that our challenges will be dealt with and that most of them will be researched, so that solutions will be found and later implemented,” he says.
 
The Lozi people have inhabited the Barotse plains for centuries, and still recognize their monarchy, the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE), as a cornerstone of their culture. Mr. Mwangelwa Akapelwa Silumbu, referred to by his position as a senior BRE leader, Induna Mayunyi, was born into the BRE, and now manages water development in the Floodplain. Induna Mayunyi believes the partnership with the AAS 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.” By blending traditional knowledge with modern agricultural innovations, Induna Mayunyi is excited by the potential of the partnership to improve his peoples’ ability to diversify their crops, sustainably manage their waterways for irrigation and fish farming, and improve their livestock breeds.
 
All three of these partners in the Barotse Floodplain foresee a continuing productive relationship with the AAS Program, based on “mutual respect and understanding for each other,” as Mr Nasilele puts it.
 
Mr Mulanda agrees. “Our partnership has a bright future,” he says. “We are working as a team and we seem to have prioritized team work from the onset of the partnership.”
 
Induna Mayunyi also hopes for a long and prosperous partnership beyond the AAS Program. “We want to appeal to WorldFish and the Program not to vanish in thin air after the life span of this project, because we will need them to also teach us how to manage our natural resources sustainably,” he says.