The ownership of natural resources in Zambia, including forest, wildlife, water, land, and minerals, has been vested to the state from the colonial era through the present. Over the years, there have been calls for transferring management and resource rights of natural resources to local communities. This type of devolution is expected to promote incentives for local conservation as well as reduce the management burden for the government. In the 1990s the National Parks and Wildlife Policy (1998) and the Forest Action Plan (1997) acknowledged a need for community participation in forest and wildlife management. These policy directives called for legislative reforms to forest, wildlife, land, water, and minerals-focused ministries and departments. However, despite substantial advances in the wildlife sector on community based natural resource management (CBNRM), until recently there has been limited progress across other resources. Even in cases where devolution has occurred, coordination in management across resources remains rare. Now as forest and fisheries devolution and community empowerment begin to take hold in Zambia, this lack of integration and coordination across sectors poses risks in terms of achieving both ecological and social goals. This paper documents the lessons learned from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Integrated Land and Resource Governance program (ILRG) efforts to strengthen integration and coordination of CBNRM implementation across wildlife and forest sectors in Zambia. It includes recommendations for the range of implicated stakeholders from government and traditional leaders to NGOs, civil society, cooperating partners (donors) and communities themselves. Movement towards community-based integrated natural resource management will require commitments related to political will, technical leadership, as well as financial resources spanning the coming decades.
December 19, 2023