Commercial logging in Mutulanganga IBA in Zambia has been stopped through community pressure with the help of the Zambian Ornithological Society (BirdLife Partner).
Mutulanganga Important Bird Area (IBA) is a Local Forest Reserve in Southern Zambia that has a sizeable area of mopane woodland. Mopane is a very hard wood and grows on soils which few other trees will tolerate - namely clay, or in the shallow sand that covers clay, but cannot compete on deep well-drained soils. When mopane woodland is felled, mopane scrub will succeed it. The root system remains intact, but there is the risk of grasses and fire taking over. Normally mopane woodland does not burn as the grass cover is discontinuous, but after felling this can change. The forest protects the headwaters of the Mutulanganga, Bendele, and Lusitu rivers that flow into the Zambezi River and in so doing acts as protection from the severe impacts of flash floods and gully erosion on the agriculture land and surrounding villages.
Mutulanganga IBA is one of the areas in which the Zambian Ornithological Society (ZOS) is working, and was selected as an IBA on the basis of holding Globally Threatened Species and Biome-restricted Species. The deciduous thicket in the IBA is the breeding ground of the African Pitta as well as the seasonal host of the Barred Longtailed Cuckoo, Thrush Nightingale and River and Marsh Warbler. Other birds of interest are the Western Banded Snake Eagle, Crested Guineafowl, Purple-crested Turaco, African Broadbill and Livingstone’s Flycatcher. It is also an important area for the Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia (WECSZ) as the Mutulanganga Forest helps to protect the Namoomba Elephant Corridor, thus providing sanctuary and foraging areas for the regional Elephant population and other large mammals such as Hippos. The forest is also a significant area of biological diversity which is important to keep intact for Zambia’s future generations.
In April 2010 the Fly Dragon Wood and Lumber Company, was awarded a timber logging concession in Mutulanganga IBA on condition that the Environmental Project Brief (EPB) was approved. The Project Brief named the target species as Mopane with the goal of harvesting 40 trees per day. At full operation the project expected to create “10 or more” jobs in the community. The company submitted an EPB to the Environmental Council of Zambia (ECZ) and ZOS immediately lodged an objection. ZOS also sought help from WESCZ and other environmental NGOs to support the objection to the timber logging. Due to this pressure ECZ called for the Fly Dragon Wood and Lumber Company to do a full Environmental Impact Assessment on the area.
Living in the area are the Tonga people who used to live on the shores of the Zambezi River and were trans-located to make way for Lake Kariba. They had to adapt from their fishing culture to a farming community in an area which is harsh and arid and not good farmland. ZOS has been implementing a UNDP/GEF funded project to promote community based eco-tourism and biodiversity conservation. The project aims at improving the livelihoods of the people living in the area by initiating small scale funding for fishing and farming projects and developing the craft industry in the area through an organized marketing system.
ZOS, with funding from NORAD, is also training bird guides to show tourists the important birds in the area. The project is financing the construction of an eco-tourism camp site which will be able to fund the community for future developments.
Subsequent to the rejection of the EPB, BirdLife Africa arranged funding for ZOS for some Advocacy work and a Cost Benefit Study. ZOS arranged for one of Zambia’s top ecologists, Mike Bingham, to do an initial survey of the biodiversity in the area. ZOS has also been working with the local Community to help them understand the long term effects of logging in the forest. The Site Support Group Chair managed to get an amazing 600 signatures for the community petition against the project.
A full EIA was duly submitted by the logging company and in December 2010 it came up for review. Once again ZOS and WECSZ together with other environmentally minded organisations and NGOs submitted full objections to the project.
We heard in mid January that the EIA has been rejected by the Environmental Council and that the Fly Dragon Wood and Lumber Company has been stopped from logging in the Mutulanganga Forest and adjacent area. The only door left open for the logging company is to go to the High Court and lodge an appeal, but this is a very lengthy and costly process and ECZ consider this course of action is unlikely to happen as ZOS had put forward such a strong case
This shows that advocacy does work in Zambia if you are prepared to put in the man hours and stick to the intended goals. Congratulations to the ZOS and the WECSZ teams for all their hard work in saving this very Important Bird Area and Elephant Corridor.
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