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.

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