Saturday, November 17, 2007


“A State without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.”
Edmund Burke

The present public uproar over foreign cheap labour (code for Chinese) invading Zambia, resulting in the announcement by a Government Minister that a Zambianization committee will be re-introduced to deal with it, is indicative of how sensitive the Zambian people are to any invasion of their national sovereignty, be it competition in the labour market, disease or foreign investors. This perfectly natural xenophobia – obviously having some survival value, if only of the collective psyche, lead after all in Northern Rhodesia to the rejection of British Imperial Government rule and the ushering in of Independent Zambia in 1964. However, such driven protectionism is highly selective in its expression, for escaping such nationalistic xenophobic scrutiny is an invasive force arguably far more threatening to a nation than being colonized by the pre-eminent culture of the time; an invader that reduces a nation’s GDP, watches as the average life expectancy decreases over the last 20 years from 57 to 37, removes development incentives, underwrites corruption, parasitizes civil servants time and then poaches their services, ignores traditional systems – the magma of future life, and forcibly injects a debilitating cocktail of untested foreign ideas, policies and development drugs into the national buttock - in contempt of the law of unintended consequence and the demands of the precautionary principle. Such an invasive force is foreign donor aid – exemplified by its visible battalions, aid programmes.

One such Zambian aid programme, the UNDP/GEF, ‘Classification of Protected Areas’ project, is yet further spawn of the mutualistic parasitic relationship of donor and government, a relationship now more secure in evolutionary terms than the ‘marriage’ of the shark and the sucker fish. The UNDP is the United Nations Development Programme, and GEF, the Global Environmental Facility, the latter controlled, as it happens, by UNDP and a few other UN organizations. To most Zambians, poor people after all, the UN workers are citizens of many countries who they see speeding by locked in the largest of 4 x 4 stations wagons, a massive radio aerial clamped on bumper, windows shut fast, air-conditioner excluding the native air, its besuited ‘experts’ rushing off to a meeting. But what they don’t know, is that the UNDP resembles very much their own Government, as random readings concerning the UNDP by Inner City Press at the UN HQ in New York makes clear. UNDP is one of the bad apples in the UN barrel.

UNDP recently spent $737, 000 on a commissioned book about themselves called, “UNDP: A Better Way”, a hagiography seeking to sanctify the doings of the successive Administrators of UNDP: Maurice Strong - who left the organization after the uncovering of strong skullduggery, Mark Malloch-Brown (now back in the British cabinet) – an undistinguished time at the helm at best, and the present incumbent, Kemal Davis – the latter with such a dislike for the press and transparency that he refused to answer questions from them for 14 months. The flow of questionable procedures at UNDP is unending: the Spanish Prime Minister criticizes UNDP for not providing audited accounts for its 192 Member States, saying that only summaries go to the members of the UNDP’s executive board; UNDP rent ten rooms in Jerusalem for Quartet envoy Tony Blair, at a cost of $1.3 million that it did not have commitments for, and signed a lease before any internal review procedure, and without considering comparable prices; and the Administrator’s Concessionary Fund, released $709,000 of the 2006 spending, and $698,000 of the 2005 spending, for the Millennium Project, the group led by ‘Bednets’ Jeffrey Sachs and his team including Guido Schmidt-Traub, which was brought in-house at UNDP without following recruitment and hiring rules, and Inter Press Services further report that, “the entire staff of the UN Millennium Project, which Mr. Sachs has led since 2002, was merged into UNDP, in seeming violation of applicable recruiting and hiring rules. UNDP has stated in writing that it will not respond to questions about these employment practices, nor will it release audits, neither to the media nor to countries which fund UNDP – and regarding Mr. Sachs, several UNDP sources suggested that inquiry be made into compensation beyond the previously announced One Dollar a Year service to the Secretary General.”

One of the areas of great concern in UNDP and Zambia alike is corruption, as well as the treatment of whistleblowers. Those in various countries who have exposed corruption in UNDP have not been given protection, the UNDP Department of Management leaving whistleblowers out to the maggot flies, a strong parallel with whistleblowers against corruption in Zambia, where, if they are tourism and conservation investors on self-employed or work permits, get placed in Coventry by ZAWA and the Ministry of Tourism, Environment & Natural Resources (MTENR) – shunned by the likes of UNDP, as well as being targeted by the Office of the President and the Minister of Home Affairs. Such is my first hand experience.

In Zambia, as is its custom, UNDP gets together with the MTENR to conjure up its wish list of programmes for funding by the GEF – often a reliable funder of environmental projects, but also, like most aid programmes, one of many sources for those in power of jobs for pals, new Pajeros, sitting allowances, computers, lucky grant awards (Philipines GEF office) foreign travel, study bursaries and - as the reports of the Zambia Auditor-General attests, corruption. In another classic waPajero move, UNDP and MTENR came up with the idea that Zambia’s protected areas, an invader artefact after all, required re-classification. The justification for this was presented in September 2000 to GEF as a concept proposal for a PDF Block “B” grant, stating that “ Zambia has demonstrated it’s commitment in conserving and managing the country’s biodiversity through various legal instruments and policy frame works and through the establishment of institutions at national and local levels”, a statement made at a time when such commitment was little in evidence, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife having just been wiped off the map and replaced by a statutory body, the Zambia Wildlife Authority, the chromosome deficient infant of an EU midwife project and its little survival-pack afterbirth, ‘The Master Plan’, few of whose recommendations have been followed to this day.

The concept note erroneously stated that “since the 1960’s when the present boundaries of the protected area system was designed and implemented, there has been substantial habitat conversion, encroachment and unsustainable use of resources within the protected areas. These impacts have changed the nature of the protected areas, and in some cases, boundaries no longer coincide with biodiversity hot spots and distribution. Furthermore, there is increasing demand from local communities for access to the resources. It is therefore an urgent necessity, as recognized in the NBSAP, to reinventory, reclassify, and redefine the protected areas system, and at the same time develop incentives for community involvement in the management and conservation of biodiversity, to ensure long term sustainability of the new classification and system.” Apart from getting the date wrong by between twenty or seventy years – depending on the particular protected area, no empirical evidence was put forward for such wild and woolly claims that would justify such a manic spring-clean of the protected area cupboard; but that was hardly the point, for this was a pure McLuhanesque example of ‘The medium is the message’, where the waPajero’s invented world has little to do with the historical and ecological reality of the late iron-age darkness of traditional Zambia – the real Zambia. Somebody at the Ministry simply helped his desk-officer chum in UNDP to make up the numbers on the project quota. The patient was gravely ill they said, and they had the treatment.

Well, there is an inevitably about all of this, GEF and the World Bank and the Nordic Development Fund were sent the concept note with a request for £410K so that a Great Plan could be produced. The money was handed over, and a foreign consultant, unversed in the history and traditions of the country, began work. That the man from the Ministry and the woman from UNDP (it only takes two) had not found out that the Game Department had tried its first Public-private partnership (PPP) in 1949, and that it had continued this process in 1969-76 (Black Lechwe Project), arriving at the first lease agreement for a National Park in 1988, and that they were working quite hard at delivering a number of these PPPs in other National Parks, came as no surprise. For how would they know, without a number of visits to the archives; after all, there is no institutional memory left in Government. But none of this matters, for the Foreign Master Plan subsumes all, even accepted policy.

The first Great Plan recommended nine (sic) implementing partners for the Re-classificion of Protected Areas Project: the MTENR, ZAWA, WWF, UNDP, Ministry of Finance and Planning, Natural Resources Consultative Forum, a ‘Relevant Ministries Steering Committee’, a Technical Advisory Group, a Project Consultation Group (consultants) and private sector partners for two demonstration sites. Of course they had left out the customary authority and the people. Ten then.

In 2003, I met up with the relevant UNDP desk officer, telling her of the Mpumba Trust in Chief Mpumba’s country near Mpika, then still funded by WWF-USA (now abandoned like the Tanganyika Groundnuts Scheme), and of the Landsafe Investment Trust model, funded by Gamefields – a private investment group, which had been presented to Paramount Chief Kopa of the Bisa, and which is now currently into its fourth year of use as the template for the development of the Luembe Conservancy Trust in Nyimba district, and for a growing number of similar trusts in Zambia which do not allow the alienation of customary land, be it by foreigner or Zambian. In addition, I mentioned the proposals for PPPs in respect of the two remaining National Parks in the Bangweulu both in need of management, as well as a proposal for a conservation investment framework incorporating a part of DRC (the last of the primary miombo), the Bangweulu, the Luangwa rift and adjoining patches of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

But for some reason all went quiet at UNDP - a new Belgian GEF desk officer suddenly became incommunicado, and the officer dealing with conservancies and private development at ZAWA – on the surface all smiles and enthusiasm about this empowerment of local communities, but telling a different and hostile tale to community members when they visited him, is the same man employed by UNDP now to manage the Bangweulu demonstration site. And the ZAWA hierarchy turned down applications for a PPP in respect of the two Bangweulu parks, Isangano and Lavusi Manda National, at the very time when the Liuwa Plain N.P. was given out on a PPP arrangement in a partnership between the Paramount Chief of Barotse and Africa Parks; and at the time, the Norman Car Foundation, which some of us had formed to assist ZAWA, had just developed guidelines for ZAWA on PPPs. Time passed, consultants arrived and were now pushing matters forward, later setting up shop at the former offices of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks’ Revolving Fund at ZAWA HQ - an unfortunate location, as in the 1980s much of the safari hunting, donor and Government money had disappeared there.

Later word came that the project was going ahead with demonstration sites in Chiawa and Bangweulu being established. In the Chiawa – an area along the Zambezi, the UNDP consultants reported that “community representatives, ZAWA and local tourism operators have agreed to create a new PA category out of the eastern part of the GMA and to raise the protection status. This means that an area will be gazetted on customary land that will have the same protection status as a National Park. The land remains under customary tenure and will be governed in a partnership between the resident community, ZAWA and local tourism operators.”

Let us be clear about what this means: this new category of protected area, placed on customary land, signals a future change of land tenure - effectively alienation by another name, no mater how it is clothed – such was the experience of Chief Nsefu in 1949-1954, who saw his land, which he had agreed to becoming an early form of a PPP arrangement, becoming a game reserve, and later being included in the South Luangwa National Park. This new protected area category has been engineered by UNDP, but clearly with the blessing of ZAWA. To deliver this protected area, a secular planning religion called Future Search was brought in, a facilitator which believes in securing salvation through gathering people together, and which eventually arrives at some sort of consensus of the way life is to be lived. It matters not what it is that your group wish to do, or what some manipulator wishes a group to do, in fact, it helps not to know what to do, for Future Search will get you all together and through a process not unfamiliar to the more passive religious sects, conjures up the future vision and gets everyone singing, hands lifted, from the same hymn sheet. Yassah ! However, as I know only too well, having worked with one of the best facilitators in this line of business, this method is only as good as the quality, knowledge and experience of the stakeholders involved – and it is after all just another man-plan, which is likely not to have any relevance to the actual situation on the ground. Future Search and its kith and kin, a global marriage market of conjuring up ideas, are like eunuchs at the May Ball: they may get the wallflowers up and going on the dance floor but they don’t do anything afterwards. But these were just the people and process brought in by UNDP.

As Chieftainess Chiawa assisted in the distribution of the Landsafe Trust system to the House of Chiefs, accepted by them and submitted to the 5th National Development Plan on 6 July by James Matale, the House of Chiefs' spokesman, as Chiefdom Trusts, declaring that "We should be allowed to retain absolute title to our land while giving investors and non-subjects renewable lease rights under various chiefdom trusts", one wonders therefore why she agreed to effectively hand over a large part of her country to ZAWA, given the increasingly slender claims they have by way of their Game Management Areas (GMAs) – 34 lodge sites already having been sold in Chiawa by the chieftainess over 40 km of the Zambezi, despite it being a GMA where supposedly the permission of ZAWA had to be obtained before any alienation occurred. Of course, to bring this about they made sure not to involve other Zambian developed trust systems which seek to decentralize the power of Government and place it in the hands of customary leaders and landowners – the latter being a group increasingly seeking their democratic cake, but within the traditional system, and acting with the local council and investors, rather than bringing in some outside consultants in order to introduce a franchised development system having alien roots. So, in a stroke, UNDP/GEF completely ignored an indigenous system developed over a period of 58 years, and injected a foreign one.

And so we turn to an examination of the South-East Bangweulu, one of the demonstration sites. As I was once in charge of the area for the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, I was curious as to why there was no mention of the Black Lechwe Project (1969-1976), which had sought first to save the Black lechwe from extinction, and then to ensure that the local inhabitants would benefit from them in the future.

In this second demonstration site where UNDP and ZAWA proposed their new system (the latter now on its uppers but now soon to be out of debt after being thrown a lifeline by a K23 billion bail-out from the Medium Term Expenditure Framework for 2008-2010), which UNDP little knowledge of, they conjured up an agreement with six chiefs within the Black lechwe range i.e. the area which the BL project had been most involved with, an area totally neglected by ZAWA and by the National Wetland Management Committee which is supposed to be in place – but isn’t, in violation of Zambia’s agreement under the RAMSAR Convention. Again, UNDP seem unaware of some important facts: that the this site was greatly expanded by RAMSAR in 1991 to include all the three National Parks of the Bangweulu and their attendant Game Management Areas – the latter nothing more than a planning framework introduced by the Game Department in 1971, and not a new category of State land.

There never was a plan to gazette part of the Bangweulu into a National Park, for the simple reason that it would have impacted on local people in their annual movement with the floods in search of fish and lechwe. What was proposed by the original Blacke lechwe team, Richard Bell and Jeremy Grimsdell, who carried out a seminal ecological study of the area, was the gazetting of a special GMA, with the second choice being the establishment of a National Park within it – an option they and I never expected to be chosen, one taking in the main watermeadows and plains around Chikuni, Mutoni, Lukanga and Kaleya and up to Chafye island - towards the line of the Chambeshi.

And the plan was not in anyway constrained by land tenure issues. The fact is that when the Black Lechwe Project ceased functioning in February of 1976 with my departure as a result of the changes made by the President of Zambia’s Watershed Speech of 25 June 1975, nothing was done there again, the Anglo-American funded Chikuni Research station, HQ of the project, simply fell down in time, the airboat donated by WWF International (handed over by Sir Peter Scott) simply sank ever deeper into the bungyhollow ooze, and my disconsolate driver, without a truck to drive – for that had been expropriated by some village chickens, was still sitting outside his hut dutifully collecting his pay every month when I visited a year later.

Now UNDP/ZAWA have conjured up a Community Conservation Park – yet another protected area, when we already have 19 others in the country, most of which are not looked after and desperately need public private partnerships. One wonders what paramount Chief Kopa is thinking about, having been excited by the Landsafe system – and signing up for it with the House of Chiefs, or how Chief Mpumba regards matters with his community owned trust now abandoned by WWF-USA. Perhaps Chief Chitambo will tell them of the benefits he has derived from the Kasanka Trust – who have managed the Kasanka National Park - which lies in his country, under a PPP with ZAWA now for 18 year or more, and which his people gave over to protected status in the 1930s. And my old friend Chief Chiundaponde, the longest serving chief in Zambia, what does he think about in his dotage, having awaited for the development so long promised? And perhaps the present Chief Bwalya Mponda, at his masumba on Ncheta Island on the Chambeshi, having had ‘the knowledge’ passed down to him by the late former Chief, Cotton Mateyo, who served throughout the time of the Black Lechwe Project as a game scout and valued assistant, will merely nod his head. Anything, after all, is better than nothing.

There is no mention of the structure under which these ‘people’s parks’ are to be run and managed, but one thing is for certain is that every effort was made to have nothing to do with the models already being tested elsewhere. Why could ZAWA and UNDP not have engaged with those who developed the models, having registered them with ZAWA and elsewhere, and now struggling on with them in Mpumba, Kaingu, Luembe, Mazavuka... and soon in Nylaugwe and Mwape perhaps. An anonymous comment which came through to me summarises the situation exactly:

“The UNDP reclassification project exhibits all the classic mistakes of an aid program: i) supporting an institution that does not follow its own agenda of partnership building, and one that has made no effort to decentralise or manage its finances - see Auditor-General's report of 2005 on parastatals, and ii) using foreign consultants (Future Search) who appear to have no experience in rural Africa when there are at least three community ownership projects run by locals, two of them supported by a sister institution, WWF ( Mpumba and Mazabuka) and iii) dreaming up a big plan without extensive involvement of the local stakeholders and with no reference to relevant past studies or paying heed to existing conventions. Bound to fail at a cost to future generations.”

And recently, this self same UNDP/GEF project, were persuaded to the idea of creating a conservancy in the Luembe open area by some businessmen who had conspired to alienate part of the adjoining West Mvuvye National Forest, and having failed to do the same on the rest of it, sought to take over the adjoining Luembe open area, thinking that having the chief and some senior politicians in their pocket would suffice. But UNDP, discovering that the Luembe Conservancy Trust was not only street-legal and had the blessing of the Community Resource Board, the Headmans’ Association and the community in general, they declined to back them.

And so we must now await the next move of the waPajero who feed together from the full pot in town – or as some call it, the plunder pot, while out there in the old timeless traditional world of the true Zambia, is the empty pot. And as I write, the waPajero, the UNDP and the MTENR, will be hatching out anew their statutory instruments to take over customary and community land under the all-consuming Great Master Plan.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bednets Sachs's legacy...

I have been firing off missiles regarding the irresponsible distribution of bednets to all and sundry, with no result. The Environmental Council of Zambia, apart from an initial acknowledgement of the problem, remain mute - as on other matters. Therefore it was good to read this piece. However, what is being done about it? Oncemore the donors from Gates to Sachs to DFId to Canadian Red Cross - the whole bang shoot, must shoulder responsibility for what bednets are doing to the fishery. Africa just lies back and takes it because powerful individuals make money out of it.

The news from africanpress on November 14, 2007 reported by Wilfred Zulu, is that "Zambia’s quest to fight Malaria has come under an unprecedented challenge as it scales up to overcome an epidemic that is claiming an average of 50,000 lives a year. Among the key challenges facing the country is the improper use of the Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) by some beneficiaries. The other problem is educating people on the need to seek early treatment to avert malaria-related deaths.
Health officials say Zambia’s efforts to fight malaria are being frustrated by people living near lakes and rivers. These people, they say, are using the nets for economic gains as opposed to safeguarding themselves against the mosquito bite that causes malaria and subsequent death. Health spokesman Canisius Banda said, despite government giving away the protective nets at highly subsidised rates to most vulnerable people, the trend of misusing the nets has continued, fueling concerns that Zambia’s desire to scale down malaria by 2010, as demanded by the World Health Organisation (WHO), might fail.
‘’We have introduced ITNs as a way of fighting the disease but most people, especially in rural areas, use it for fishing at the expense of their lives,’’ Mukonka said. The abusers are mainly people in the north-eastern region near lakes Bangweulu and Mweru, and in Mpulungu, a border town near Tanzania, as well as those living near Zambezi River and Kafue River in southern Zambia, according to a survey. Health Minister Brian Chituwo says unless Zambians changed their attitudes, the fight against malaria might fail. Zambia has teamed up with British Department for International Development (DFID), and Japan International Corporation Agency, as well as WHO, UN’s Children’s Fund and local stakeholders to fight the disease. DFID provided 1.6 million dollars to cover 2003-2006 and Global Fund 17 million dollars to finance a two-year comprehensive malaria control programme in Zambia, Chituwo said.

Joseph Sichone, a fisherman in Mpulungu, says he has been forced to use the nets for fishing. He says he has a family of eight, most of who are at school, to look after. ‘’Because of the high level of poverty in our area, we are using the nets to catch fish to sell and make ends meet,’’ Sichone says. ‘’We are doing this to save our children from dying of hunger.’’ fddddddddddddMary Mwele, who lives near Lake Mweru, says she has also been forced to use the net to feed her children. Her husband died five years ago. Fishermen say they are prepared to stop abusing the net should the government provide them with loans to start alternative businesses. Edward Tafuna, a traditional ruler in northern Zambia, blames the government for failing to help his people, most of whom, he says, are vulnerable and at the mercy of hunger. ‘’Most of my subjects have been told not to use the nets for fishing but they are wondering how they can survive in this economy. The government should either create jobs or empower the people through loans,’’ Tafuna says.

DFID health advisor in Zambia, Tony Daly says the British funding was intended to benefit children under the age of five as well as pregnant women. The nets, he says, are a vital component of the government’s Roll Back Malaria programme.
‘’We are concerned that people put themselves at risk of contracting the disease if they are not sleeping under the nets. We are pleased that, through on-going information, the authorities are reinforcing messages on the correct use of ITNs and the importance of using them for malaria prevention. This public education is crucial and can save lives,’’ Daly says.
WHO Malaria Expert in Zambia, Fred Masinga warned that the use of the mosquito nets for fishing would affect the aquatic life. ‘’We have reports of people using the ITNs for fishing and not for their safety. We are presently undertaking a study to verify the reports although we know that the nets can’t last for long because they are meant to trap mosquitoes and not fish,’’ Masinga says. The Environmental Council of Zambia spokesman, Joseph Mukosa says his organisation will work to discourage fishermen from using the nets. ‘’The ITNs are meant to protect people especially pregnant women and children. And for someone to have the audacity to use it to catch fish is out of this world. The Zambian government needs to speed up its sensitisation programme to avoid unnecessarily deaths among the vulnerable people,’’ Stella Goings, UNICEF Representative in Zambia, said.

Of the 10.5 million people, 50,000 Zambians die every year from malaria, and nearly 40 percent of the deaths of children aged five years or under are caused by the disease, according to the Lusaka-based National Malaria Control Centre. Not only Zambia, but similar problem is facing the 13-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) where around 63 percent of the population lives in malarial zone, according to the Harare-based Southern Africa Malaria Control programme.
In areas of stable transmission, under-five year olds and pregnant women are at greatest risk of severe malaria due to the low levels of acquired immunity, said the organisation. While in the predominantly stable transmission countries - Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia – there are an estimated 13.7 million under-five year olds and 3.4 million pregnant women at risk of severe malaria, it added. In the predominantly unstable transmission countries – Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe – where all age groups have a high risk of malaria due to low levels of acquired immunity, 12.4 million people are at risk of malaria. According to the organisation, malaria is responsible for 200,000 deaths per annum in the SADC region. Between 10 million and 37 million confirmed cases of malaria occur in the sub-region every year, it says.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Zambian Chiefs waking from their slumbers...

Chief Shakumbila's dissatisfaction at not being consulted, or worse - at seeing no benefit for himself and his people from 60 zebra wrested from the Blue Lagoon National Park - an area first obtained by the late Erica and Ronnie Critchley as a ranch, then later left to the Government as a National Park, strikes a rich seam of sympathy among those living around National Park and Forests, the very swathes of good country which they had voluntarily given over to conservation - the implicit understanding being that they would benefit from such an altruistic action. Chief Nsefu is the historical case in point. He had entered into just such an arrangement with the Provincial Administration in the Protectorate days of 1949, at first reaping funds for the Native Authority, only to see matters get out of control and part of his chiefdom become the Nsefu Game Reserve and then later to see it included in the South Luangwa National Park. The people from Nsefu now have no direct say in the management or earning opportunities there - let alone the harvesting of bush materials and wild food from what was once their land. And with the acceptance by the House of Chiefs of Chiefdom Trusts, the muttering in the villagers and in the House at this state of affairs will soon rise to a shriek.

The capture of animals from National Parks or Game Management Areas for the stocking of other areas, now a common occurrence it seems, is a worrying trend. These zebra were clearly intended for Liuwa Plain National Park and not Lusenga Plain National Park which has not been cared for for 30 years or more. And there is a fellow beavering away in a public private partnership with ZAWA at Blue Lagoon already. I wonder what he thinks of all this. I have written elsewhere about the translocation of zebra from Kafue to Bangweulu and the failure to do something about the native species already there - a different animal to the Kafue lot. The Convention on Biological Diversity's central pillar, the Precautionary Principle, is being totally ignored.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Where the water meets the sky...I.P.A.Manning

Watwa c. 1914 J.E. Hughes.

"Men were hunting, and we passed near large herds of antelopes, which made a rushing plunging sound as they ran and sprang away among the waters. A lion had wandered into this world of water and anthill, and roared night and morning, as if very much disgusted: we could sympathize with him."

So wrote David Livingstone on 7 April, 1873, as he made his way by canoe and donkey through the flooded land of eastern Bangweulu from the Munikazi river towards the Lulimala river and his last resting place near Headman Chitambo's village. On the 27 April, he wrote: 'Knocked up quite, and remain - recover - sent to buy milch goats. We are on the banks of the Molilamo.' In the early hours of 1 May, he was dead.

The Bangweulu is one of the most ancient land surfaces in the world: a vast flat basin with a total area of approximately 10,000 square miles. In the north-western corner of this basin are the open lakes which slowly give way in the east to deep permanent swamp, and then gradually grow shallower until the estuaries of the principal rivers and their fringing floodplains are reached on its periphery. There are seventeen major rivers which flow into the basin, and only one river, the Luapula, which drains it in the south. Evaporative water loss and this single drainage point is not sufficient to either maintain or decrease the water level permanently and this has given rise to a seasonal fluctuation to which all animal life is adapted. In the rainy season (November to April) the water pushes out onto the floodplains as far as the fringing woodland, driving much life before it, only to begin its retreat in April to the great drainage line of the Chambeshi which cleaves the centre of the basin from the north-east and which eventually becomes the Luapula. In the south-east of this basin lie the principal breeding grounds of the black lechwe - the meadows which are allied with the estuaries of the Luitikila, Lumbatwa, Lukulu and Lulimala rivers.

Until the Great War, the black lechwe numbered in their hundreds of thousands. In 1957, the ecologist , Desmond Vesey-Fitzgerald wrote that during a tour in 1939, that he was: 'amazed at the number of lechwe seen; all along the boat channel in an almost unbroken line.' In 1966, the Game Department conducted an aerial survey and could only account for 4,000 animals, for they had somehow missed out a large part of the population. This miscount resulted in the animal being listed by the World Conservation Union in its Red Data Book of endangered and vulnerable species, and with the support of Anglo-American Corporation – persuaded by a senior executive, David Gleason, the Black Lechwe Project was initiated so as, 1) to protect the lechwe, 2) to report on their ecology, and 3) to allow the local community to benefit from their sustained use once their population had recovered.

At the start of this project under Jeremy Grimsdell in 1969 – later joined by Richard Bell, there were 17,000 lechwe. In May of 1973, as phase 1 of the programme was coming to an end and lechwe numbers had already increased rapidly, I was instructed by Frank Ansell to take charge of the new Bangweulu Command and to put in place phase II of the programme, this being management, law enforcement, and ecological monitoring. At the end of 1973, I took over the research project from Richard and Jeremy, who had by then completed an excellent study of the black lechwe, and worked on the lechwe’s dual lekking system, and on the ecology of the sitatunga. In 1975, Peter Moss and I carried out an aerial survey and arrived at a population figure a little short of 40,000.

The greatest concentration of large mammals in Bangweulu occur in the estuaries of the south-east, the most numerous species being the black lechwe, sitatunga and Bangweulu tssesebe, with buffalo, reedbuck, oribi, elephant and leopard well represented, though lion were by 1975 much reduced. It is the flooding regime, coupled with the grazing action of these animals, and that of a caterpillar which appears seasonally, which produces a mat of leafy grass, high in protein, allowing for seasonal densities of 2,000 lechwe per square mile.

The sight of one of these water meadows early in the new year is unforgettable: a brief glimpse perhaps of the pleistocene plenitude that was, of nature relatively untouched, going about its slow purposeful way in a world where there is no time, only the gradual change of seasons.

During the March/April period, the level of the water on the water meadow rises, signalling the end of the lechwe rut, and forcing the herds back into the peripheral woodland -fortunately for no more than two or three months, for the grasses there are of low nutritive value and the lechwe quickly lose condition. By the end of May the waters recede and the lechwe segregate into male and female groups. The latter then begin their annual trek some thirty miles to the north to the line of the Chambeshi river. With them go the fishermen, who now make their temporary camps on the swamp islands, and the elephant and the buffalo and many of the birds such as spurwing geese and fulvous tree duck and knob nose which gather in dark glittering mobs to feed on wild rice. A month or two later most of the female lechwe have gone, then the males leave en masse - bar a number who remain all year, and follow the same route as the females. In September/October, the females drop their calves, and the males, in anticipation of the first rains in November, start their journey back to the water meadows, and then lingering a month or two, the females and calves follow.

Within the immediate vicinity of the lechwe live numbers of people - in 1974 they numbered 20, 000, of which two of the three tribes, the Unga and the Bisa, came from the west in the 17th Century and found the Twa already resident in the swamps, living on game, fish and the roots of papyrus and water lilies. Today these tribes are much intermarried though some settlements are still largely composed of the Twa, an independent and shy people who for long have shown little allegiance to authority, be it the early trading concessionaires, the British Administration or their own government. Life to them is one long unremitting struggle, even in so rich a paradise.

The Black Lechwe Project had to grapple with a future in which the destinies of people and lechwe should ideally remain forever entwined. The project land use proposals noted that the peripheral areas of floodplain outside of the Black lechwe range had considerable agricultural potential, and that in the lechwe range, some limited tourism, safari hunting and cropping of lechwe could be carried out – the latter only once populations had reached higher numbers, some 160, 000 being the number suggested, given the human demographics. For a maximum sustained yield to be achieved, Jeremy and Richard maintained that cropping would be at half the level of the population at carrying capacity i.e. 80,000, and that this would allow for a 15% annual increase i.e. about 11,000 lechwe a year, producing 400 metric tons of dressed carcass. These they suggested should be handed out in the form of licenses to village residents. They suggested that if the annual increase was about 10% it would take 18 years to reach the necessary level. It is now 34 years later. What, I wonder, is the population now?
For the floodplain areas they suggested that the GMAs: Bangweulu, Kafinda, Chambeshi and the then proposed Kalasa Mukosa flats, should remain, and a specified area within the present Bangweulu and Kafinds GMA be protected from settlement and development. This in essence became the Chikuni GMA. They also suggested as a secondary choice, the creation of a National Park within the Chikuni GMA, which would take in Chimbwe plain and Chafye island, essentially the Lukulu estuary and its drainage line out to Chafye island, the edge of the deep swamp. The Black Lechwe Project was closed on my departure in February of 1976; and the people still have no legal access or authority over the resources on their ancient lands.

On 28 December 1991, The RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands came into force for Zambia, with eight sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, one of them being called the Bangweulu swamps, now including all the three National Parks (Kasanka, Lavusi Manda and Isangano) and their attendant GMAs, with a surface area of 15, 561 sq. miles.
But the fact that it is now a RAMSAR site may not be sufficient to save it from the hydro-electric producers of the future who may wish to re-visit plans to impound the Luapula and create a vast shallow lake ensuring the demise of the lechwe and its significant fishery. Zambia should avoid the tragedy such as has befallen the Kafue flats, once the elysian fields.