For centuries, local people have relied on the mighty Zambezi River as a valuable source of food and income. With the increasing population and added pressure mounting on already vulnerable natural resources, the Simalaha Community Conservancy took matters into their own hands to help protect their environment and, in turn, their livelihoods.

To learn more about some of the ways that the communities have taken action, Peace Parks Foundation’s Chief Investment Officer, Colin Porteous, is taken on a boat trip to explore the local waters.

The Natural Resources of the Zambezi River

It might be hard to think that the source of Africa’s fourth largest river starts its journey as a seemingly insignificant, bubbling spring in the shadows of a small, protected miombo forest. Situated in northwest Zambia, where the borders of Congo, Angola and, of course, Zambia meet, the small spring rises up out of the marshy wetland and begins its 2 700km journey to the Indian Ocean.

Besides being Zambia’s most important river, the Zambezi is an important source of hydroelectric power. Along its course, you will also find one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Victoria Falls. This is a major source of tourism revenue for both Zimbabwe and Zambia. It also cascades over the impressive Ngonye Falls located within western Zambia.

Flowing Through KAZA

This important river flows through all six of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area’s partner states: Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. With generous funding from the German Government through KfW Development Bank, Peace Parks Foundation has supported this critical protected area since 2004. This has seen improved socio-economic conditions for communities living within the Zambian component of the Kavango Zambezi Conservation Area through tourism, conservation and community development projects.

Protecting This Lifeline

Communities that depend on the Zambezi River as a source of food and income recognise the increased need to protect this lifeline. With communities expanding in the area, fish stocks are being depleted due to overfishing. A significant contributor to the problem is the use of tightly woven monofilament fishing nets which catches everything from fish eggs to small reptiles.

To counter this, local communities have taken ownership of their waters through a self-elected Village Fisheries Management Committee. Working with Peace Parks Foundation, this committee manages and regulates fishing practices in the area by encouraging local fishers to hand in their illegal fishing nets and use sustainable and eco-friendly fishing practices. They are also responsible for monitoring the 11 no-fish zones within the Conservancy, which has already resulted in increased fish populations.

Simalaha’s communities remain empowered to look after their precious natural resources to ensure that future fish stocks remain protected, contributing to a brighter future here.