Lessons Learned on Community Game Ranching in Zambia

Zambia Community Game Ranching Lessons Learned cover imageWildlife or game ranching is a billion-dollar industry in southern Africa.1 Despite Zambia’s seemingly high potential for community-focused private sector development in the industry, it has not flourished to date. Notwithstanding this, private agricultural ranches continue to add game ranching to their portfolios, and several community game ranching initiatives exist. Because participation of civil society (local communities) is understood to be essential for integrating social, economic, environmental, and political imperatives when determining appropriate climate resilient land use in Zambia, this brief examines how community game ranches in particular are operating within a challenging economic and policy environment and assesses their sustainability potential.

An Overview of USAID’s Land & Conflict Toolkit

Land is a key factor in conflict and peace. This newly published overview of USAID’s Land & Conflict Toolkit delves into key issues at the intersection of land and conflict, addressing challenges like land tenure insecurity, human mobility, urbanization, land grabbing, and more. The overview offers actionable insights and program examples to help practitioners navigate these complexities. From prioritizing equitable land governance to assisting displaced populations, this resource provides a high-level introduction to strategic practices for development covered in more detail in the toolkit. Explore and access the toolkit overview:

Land Rights & Natural Disaster Displacement in Sofala Province, Mozambique: Results & Lessons from the Lamadi Activity

The LAMADI activity under the Integrated Land and Resource Governance (ILRG) program was conceived to address land tenure issues in the context of displacement. The initial focus was to look at two situations of displacement, arising from different drivers that were manifesting in different parts of Mozambique. Firstly, displacement arising from the conflict in Cabo Delgado, which was assumed to be of a more temporary nature, and secondly, displacement caused through extreme weather events in the center of the country, which in the context of accelerating climate change and the advent of areas of high ongoing risk, could take on a more permanent character.

The focus on Cabo Delgado grew out of an engagement with the World Bank and the National Sustainable Development Fund (FNDS) to design safeguards and a methodology for addressing land issues for those displaced by the conflict. On completion of this task, the ILRG offered to pilot the implementation of the methodology as part of the LAMADI activity. Unfortunately, because of significant objections to the scope and strategy of the proposed pilot coming from the National Directorate of Land and Territorial Development, the FNDS and ILRG decided not to continue with this initiative.

The LAMADI activity therefore focused solely on the displacement which had arisen two years previously in Sofala province. Cyclone Idai made landfall in March 2019 near Beira City, bringing strong winds and torrential rains to Sofala, Zambézia, Tete, and Manica Provinces. It resulted in widespread flooding and caused significant and ongoing displacement. Approximately 94,000 people were displaced from their places of origin to resettlement areas across Nhamatanda, Buzi, and Dondo Districts. The aim in this context was to strengthen local capacities and resilience for dealing with land tenure challenges arising from displacements caused specifically by natural disasters and conflict. In addition to delimiting the land of host communities and addressing access and tenure issues of displaced populations, the activity was designed to pilot a variety of tools for the mapping of risk & vulnerability, as part of increasing local capacities to proactively plan for and respond to these short and long-term challenges. The activity was to be undertaken in close coordination with local government and local community leadership, and to include a significant capacity building focus at the local level.

This final report provides a summary of activities, results and lessons learned.

Assessment of the Data Reporting System of the Zambia National Community Resource Board Association

Zambia’s wild resources, including forests and wild animals, play a critical role in maintaining ecosystem integrity, supporting rural livelihoods, and in diversifying the national economy. Yet this resource base faces growing local threats such as poaching, uncontrolled fire, and habitat conversion. Proposed extra-national regulations against certain forms of hunting also present a looming threat to local livelihoods. In a context where 94 percent of the nation’s land is technically under customary tenureship (i.e., administered by traditional authorities), including more than 25 percent designated for conservation, the responsibility for managing wild resources and averting these threats falls largely on rural communities, whether by mandate or by default.

Yet even where communities hold specific rights to manage and derive benefits from local resources, a combination of factors including weak institutions and structures of governance, as well as weak support from national government, undermines the effectiveness of these practices (Davis et al., 2020). These constraints have long been recognized. The constraints have also been partially attenuated by an active civil society and private sector, consisting of both local and global non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and businesses, that have worked in partnership with rural communities and government ministries. In particular, the vertical link between individual communities and the Zambian National Community Resource Board Association (ZCRBA), formed in 2016, positions the Association as a critical player in the governance of natural resources across government, private sector and non-governmental partners in Zambia.

Effective adaptive cross-scalar governance demands a robust monitoring and communication system to navigate the complexities of natural resource management and promote accountability. These complexities encompass more than the state and dynamics of the resource base itself and include coordination of activities between multiple stakeholders, the shaping of values, and other processes. Since May of 2020, ZCRBA has been managing a national database and monitoring system, developed with support from the USAID-funded Integrated Land and Resource Governance (ILRG) program. With the end of the ILRG program in 2023, technical support and the continued development of the data system will depend on ZCRBA and its partners, but ultimately on the value and potential value of the system to help these organizations and institutions in meeting their goals. Thus, there is a need to understand the value of the data system in its current and potential forms.

Lessons On Forest And Wildlife Sector Integration in Zambia

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.

Sustainable Landscapes & Land and Resource Governance: Experiences from USAID Programming (2009-2023) (Brief and Annexes)


The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has funded sustainable landscapes (SL) programming for almost 14 years. Emerging from the Copenhagen Commitment for Tropical Forests in 2009, sustainable landscapes funds are earmarked by the US government to help slow, halt or reverse greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from land use worldwide, largely focused on forest conservation, restoration, and management. This has amounted to more than half a billion dollars mobilized for forests to date. Yet sustainable landscapes programming does not exist in a vacuum; sustainable landscapes objectives overlap with other key areas of USAID interest, including resilient agriculture systems, food security, good governance, and poverty alleviation. Thus, SL emission reduction goals must be achieved while ensuring that interventions do not create or reinforce exclusionary governance regimes or increase the economic vulnerability of the rural poor who often live adjacent to or within forested areas. Land and resource governance systems (LRG) determine who has access to natural resources, how and when they can be used, and who can make decisions over how resources are managed. A country’s LRG system may constrain or facilitate achievement of GHG reduction goals, and interventions that strengthen land tenure and resource rights can unlock mitigation opportunities and align incentives towards sustainable land use.

With respect to constraints, weak governance of natural resources at the national, regional, or local level may make it difficult for local stakeholders to effectively manage or protect forest resources against extractive interests and land use change. Stakeholder groups may be excluded from participation by law, for example, if they are not recognized as rightsholders, or by traditional practices, for example the exclusion of women in forest management decision-making bodies. SL interventions may introduce new property rights for government and communities to consider; for example, forest carbon presents a new bundle of rights and responsibilities associated with emission reductions, trade, and benefits, where ownership and benefit streams are not yet clearly defined in legislative frameworks. Without sufficient attention to who has rights over commitments and decisions, and whether actors are incentivized to change behavior, programs cannot be expected to have lasting or structural influence. Many national legal frameworks dating back to colonial times are based on state control of forest resources and lack rights recognition for Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLC). A failure to consider these constraints presents risks that USAID programs will either not achieve scalable impact, or that they will reinforce systems that center decision-making and power in existing inequitable institutions.

Interventions that secure land tenure and resource rights can unlock private sector investment and align stakeholder incentives for communities and individuals to adopt practices that support reduced GHG emissions and increased carbon sequestration by forests. Land tenure and property rights interventions further provide opportunities to resolve long-standing boundary conflicts and address historical grievances among stakeholders, which are often based on rights over resources. Investments that increase awareness of rights, or help stakeholders clarify rights, are essential to promote locally legitimate governance solutions. Indeed, almost all SL programs deploy  LRG interventions, such as mapping community natural resource boundaries, capacity building training for community resource governance bodies, land use planning, or in a few cases, legal/regulatory reform efforts. This often includes working with IPLC communities to both clarify their rights and support their ability to manage and protect forest resources.

Yet even as programs recognize LRG constraints and identify potential interventions, there may be a reluctance to engage, as LRG issues are often perceived as intractable and may risk opening up political issues that have no clear solution on a donor-driven timeframe. USAID programs may be fearful of being sidetracked into these political and cultural battles that may take decades to resolve. In some cases, program design may not be well informed by LRG constraints and opportunities, as a land governance regime may be perceived as established and not open to amendment. However, there are approaches to integrate LRG interventions, either as a design element from the beginning of the work or as part of an adaptive management approach after identifying the above constraints.

Within this context and given USAID’s existing investment in and continued commitment to forest protection and management, it is important to take stock of how LRG has been addressed in USAID SL programs. This paper thus examines how LRG issues have appeared in sustainable landscapes projects, looking at the LRG constraints and interventions that have contributed positively or negatively to successful program design and implementation. The paper encourages programs to identify local level interventions that support or strengthen national level land tenure and property rights. The analysis highlights examples, case studies, and recommendations to integrate LRG considerations more effectively for better SL outcomes.

Leçons Apprises de la Premiere Campagne de L’ODOC dans le District D’Ambanja

Madagascar fait partie des pays bénéficiaires des initiatives de réhabilitation du cacao menées par le Secrétariat pour les Affaires Économiques de la Suisse (SECO). Le projet Climate Resilient Cocoa Landscapes in Madagascar (CRCL) est mis en œuvre par le consortium Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation (une entité indépendante Suisse qui œuvre dans 30 pays du monde, notamment en Afrique, Amérique Latine, Asie et Europe de l’Est), Valrhona, Millot, Earthworm Foundation, Center for Development and Environment, Lindt & Sprüngli Ramanandraibe Exportation (Rama Ex) et la Société Anonyme au Capital de MGA (SCIM). Ce consortium comprend aussi deux entités sous contractantes : le Center for Development and Environment (CDE) et la Earthworm Foundation. Le résultat attendu du projet est que les entités publiques, privées, et communautaires gèrent durablement les paysages de cacao dans le District d’Ambanja et la vallée du fleuve Sambirano, assurant ainsi les services environnementaux essentiels. Les acteurs privés du secteur du cacao (en plus de la vanille et autres cultures de rentes) sont des moteurs de changement potentiellement importants pour réduire la pression sur les ressources naturelles et la biodiversité.

Plusieurs interventions pour soutenir la sécurisation foncière de la vallée de Sambirano ont été réalisées depuis plusieurs années comme le Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), le Programme de lutte antiérosive (PLAE), croissance agricole et sécurisation foncière (CASEF) pour la mise en place des nouveaux guichets fonciers ou redynamisation des guichets fonciers existants. Pour le cas des réserves indigènes, une Opération Domanial Concertée (ODOC) a été réalisée avec l’appui financier du PLAE en 2012 dans la commune d’Ambodimanga Ramena, et une autre en 2017 réalisée par le Ministère de l’Aménagement du Territoire et des Services Fonciers sans appui des partenaires financiers dans la commune d’Ambohitrandriana. Suite à la demande du Comité de Gestion du Bassin Versant de Sambirano (COGEBS), la réalisation d’une ODOC de deux phases (2022-2023) a été décidée par le Ministère de l’Aménagement du territoire et des services fonciers (MATSF) dans le District d’Ambanja et soutenue par Helvetas et l’Integrated Land and Resource Governance (ILRG). Cette note est un bilan de l’initiative soutenue par l’ILRG pour aborder la sécurisation des ex-réserves Indigènes. Ce bilan est tiré des rapports de mission de l’équipe, des diverses campagnes de sensibilisations avec le COGEBS, les
rapports de voyages d’études, des résultats de l’atelier bilan et des échanges, des observations de l’équipe de l’ILRG Madagascar et des lois et réglementations en vigueur à Madagascar.

Cocoa Private Sector Engagement in Land-Related Issues in the Sambirano Valley, Madagascar

In English and French

Madagascar is one of the focal countries of the cocoa rehabilitation initiative carried out by the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). The Climate Resilient Cocoa Landscapes in Madagascar (CRCL) project is implemented by the HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation consortium (an independent Swiss entity working in 30 countries around the world), Valrhona, Millot, Earthworm Foundation, Center for Development and Environment, Lindt & Sprüngli, Ramanandraibe Exportation (Rama Ex) and
Société Anonyme au Capital de MGA (SCIM). The consortium also includes two subcontracting entities: the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) and the Earthworm Foundation. The expected outcome of the project is that public, private, and community entities sustainably manage cocoa landscapes in Ambanja District and the Sambirano River Valley, thereby ensuring essential environmental service provision. Private sector companies in the cocoa sector (as well as vanilla and other cash crops) are potentially important drivers of change to reduce pressure on natural resources and biodiversity.

In July 2020, Helvetas organized a workshop at the level of the 15 municipalities, the inter-municipal level, and the level of the Sambirano River basin with the participation of many stakeholders such as municipalities, women’s associations, young people, cocoa producers, and traders. Several areas of interest emerged during these consultative meetings, such as conservation, exploitation of forest products, agriculture, livestock, and fishing, large commercial farms, domestic water services, service providers (including trade, tourism, and transport), social services (health, education, security) and the land sector.

Within the land sector, the problems raised included the cost of land services being too expensive (topographic and state district, and land counter), the non-existence of land-related offices, forced land grabbing, lack of awareness of laws governing land, influence peddling and corruption, and the existence of indigenous reserves whose ownership is not clear to local residents. The participants noted that most of the fertile land belongs to the old companies or colonial concessions, leaving only small plots of land for the local population, which continues to grow. Competition over land is considerable and especially accentuated by the non-existence of proof of ownership (title, land certificate) for the heirs of former owners or land resulting from purchases (e.g., settlers). During the consultations, women’s perspectives on access to land were not evident. To address these challenges, the CRCL consortium enlisted technical assistance from the USAID Integrated Land Resources Governance project.

The Business Case for Women’s Economic Empowerment in PepsiCo’s Potato Supply Chain in West Bengal: Key Results and Recommendations


USAID partnered with PepsiCo to test the business case for economically empowering women in PepsiCo’s potato supply chain in West Bengal, India. Women are heavily involved in potato farming in West Bengal, but often in overlooked areas of work such as seed cutting and seed treatment, typically done at home. As a result, most PepsiCo registered farmers are men. The partnership hypothesized that increasing women’s visibility and participation in PepsiCo’s supply chain would positively contribute to important tangible and intangible business metrics for the company, including increased productivity and profitability for farming families, adoption of sustainable farming practices, increased supplier base size and retention, and improved brand loyalty. The partnership worked with women and men farmers in 11 target communities and PepsiCo employees to increase gender equality awareness and women’s access to critical productive resources in order to meet both women’s empowerment and PepsiCo’s business objectives.

Lessons Learned: Integrating Gender Equality and Social Inclusion into Customary Land Documentation in Malawi

As land is a critical asset for rural men and women, securing land tenure through documentation can reduce conflict and vulnerability to property grabbing, while creating incentives for households to make long-term investments in their land. In Malawi, 70 percent of the population lives on customary land that is held by communities and administered by traditional leaders. Less than 10 percent of people have any form of land documentation, and these rates are worse for women and other marginalized groups.

The Government of Malawi enacted a series of land laws in 2016, including the Customary Land Act that allows customary land holders to formalize ownership by registering their parcels. Building on this new legal framework, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Integrated Land and Resource Governance (ILRG) program partnered with the Government of Malawi to register all customary land within a traditional land management area (TLMA). The program applied a strong gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) lens to ensure that women, youth, the elderly, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups were included throughout the process. This initiative provides lessons for scaling the government-led customary land registration process across the country in the coming years.

This brief shares the following ten lessons from this two-year partnership, highlighting the main activities undertaken to integrate GESI into the customary land documentation process, initial results, and challenges:

  1. Allow sufficient time for planning and preparation to select intervention areas, align expectations, and resolve broader land boundary issues.
  2. Carry out a robust gender analysis to inform GESI-specific activities and GESI integration in the land registration process.
  3. Invest in enumerators/data collectors, as they are the frontline for GESI integration.
  4. Implement GESI capacity strengthening for all stakeholders involved in the land registration process to increase understanding and buy-in.
  5. Ensure GESI content is part of initial community outreach on land rights, with continued sensitization throughout the documentation process.
  6. Gender quotas are important, but women need additional support to meaningfully participate in land governance.
  7. Invest in traditional leaders as key agents of change to promote GESI in customary land registration and governance.
  8. Focus on shifting harmful gender norms at the household and community levels.
  9. Build support and resources for gender-responsive land dispute resolution.
  10. Create space for long-term change; though GESI integration generates positive results, there is persistent resistance to registering land in the name of women in patrilocal marriage systems.

Data and insights on challenges and lessons learned come from two local learning events (midline and endline), as well as interviews and focus group discussions with key stakeholders. A survey with community members provided quantitative data that was compared to baseline data from the initial gender assessment.