Critical stakeholders engagement: fostering community stewardship for the safeguarding of the natural and cultural heritage of Victoria Falls/Mosi-Oa-Tunya

John Zulu
Published: 05 October 2020
Last edited: 16 October 2020
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Summary

In 1989, the site of Mosi-Oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls was inscribed on the World Heritage list for its outstanding on-going geological processes, unique geomorphological formations, and exceptional natural beauty displayed through daytime and lunar rainbows. This is one of the world’s largest waterfall in the world. However, the site is not only important for its internationally recognized natural values, Mosi-Oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls is also a very important site for local communities in Zambia, Zimbabwe and the wider south-eastern African region, which protect the site’s spiritual and religious values it embodies.

The solution focuses on how these cultural values have been identified, mapped and how the inclusion of critical stakeholders  - in combination with awareness raising and education campaigns -  have become a change for improved management and for creating a framework for the sustainable economic development of the area, moving steps towards the a less tourism-dependent economy.

Classifications

Region
East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Local
Multi-national
Subnational
Ecosystem
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
River, stream
Tropical deciduous forest
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Theme
Access and benefit sharing
Legal & policy frameworks
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Traditional knowledge
World Heritage
Challenges
Erratic rainfall
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of technical capacity
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
Aichi targets
Target 11: Protected areas

Location

Livingstone, Southern, Zambia | Zimbabwe

Challenges

The solution tackles multiple issues connected to the need for major involvement of all critical groups of stakeholders for the effective and improved management of the Mosi-Oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls World Heritage Site.

Environmental challenges: The site is faced with indiscriminate cutting of trees and uncontrolled burning of site. Stakeholders are highly involved in undertaking site patrols to curb activities that would affect the site negatively.

Social challenges: complex governance with multiple local, national and international stakeholders and difficulties in the implementation of the joint transnational steering committee; lack of local capacity and limited understanding of the important socio-cultural values of the site

Economic challenges: The economies of the towns of Livingstone, Zambia and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe are highly dependent on tourism.

Tourism Infrastructure Developmental challenges: infrastructure development proposals; need to balance sustainable development and conservation efforts.

Beneficiaries

Local and indigenous communities living inside and nearby the World Heritage property of Mosi-Oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls. Additionally, the site itself benefits from the wider engagement of people which has brought to an integrated and shared protection.

How do the building blocks interact?

The solutions build on the essential mechanism of critical stakeholder engagement (BB1) and the wider recognition of the site`s multilayered natural and cultural significance (BB2). Through the recognition of the of the wider range of values of the site, the management of the site has benefitted from a wider understanding of the management and conservation needs of the site but also renewed cooperation with local and indigenous communities that have embraced their role as stewards and custodians (BB3) of Mosi-Oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls WHS.

The long-term cooperation with key local actors and the conservation of the site requires to develop other economic avenues to sustainably support communities living around the property. At the same time , the management of the site is highly involved in developing capacities for the future through the active engagement with school children and the creation of a Heritage Conservation Club at Palm Grove School. setting (BB4). The establishment of inclusive and equitable means for stakeholder engagement is the pillar of the solution but this approach requires each building block to be in place, as each block is dependent to one another.

Impacts

The solution has brought several positive impacts that have tackled several challenges related to the lack of understanding of the site, its set of values and the missing framework for the inclusion of local actors and communities.

The effective management and protection of the site has been as a result of improved understanding of the site values that has birthed a stronger cooperation with local communities and actors. Local communities have been engaged to participate in the identification of cultural, spiritual and religious values and recognition of local stewardship as a key element for improved management and conservation efforts. These efforts have been further supported by the establishment of capacity building and awareness raising opportunities that have empowered communities to strengthen their connection with the site and be part of the steering committee for the management of the property.

The site has created an enabling environment of shared opportunities in which communities have been included as key stakeholders and have been given the chance to develop sustainable economic means inside and nearby the site.

Lastly, through cultural mapping, the solution has revealed colonial elements such as the World War I memorial, a space which is still been upheld and now being questioned on its relevance to the Falls and its cultural landscape.

Story

Patrick Malake started curving wooden crafts at an early age, the practice is a cultural norm in Nsongwe and Mukuni villages. As his curio business expended, he secured a trading shop at the World Heritage site curio market. With his hard work and dedication, Patrick was selected as a Mukuni Curio Traders chairperson in 2011. Among his duties included organizing and ensuring orderliness and maintaining set standards at the market. It was also his duty to effectively coordinate with the site management in the operations of the market. Patrick executed his duty diligently. There was high level cooperation between the traders and the site management.

In 2014, Patrick was selected to attend a CHDA/AWHF entrepreneurship course in Ghana, which he attended together the site manager Mr Zulu. During the training program, the two developed a concept of the Lwande Mixed Farm, a project aimed at providing alternative sources of livelihood for the Mukuni traders who solely depended on selling crafts to tourists. The project also aimed at protecting/upholding the natural values of the world heritage site against deforestation. Basic training in farming and entrepreneurship skills was extended to curio traders, women and selected Headmen from different villages. Chief Mukuni secured farm land to curio traders because he was in full support of the project. Funding for the commencement of the farm was sourced and implemented in 2014 with CHDA/AWHF funds and support of cooperating partners. The farm prospered, it supplied fresh farm products to local markets, hotels, lodges and supermarkets. Processed chili was supplied to international markets in Namibia. Because of the growing demand of fresh vegetables, close to 65% of the curio traders detached themselves from trading in crafts and focused on farming. Lwande farm became and alternative for many traders, however, due to political issues, the farm was halted and the project abandoned.

After his tenure of office as curio chairperson, Patrick decided continue farming using the skills he obtained from the training programs the site had facilitated. In the past 5 years, Patrick has been growing and expending his farm where he grows fresh vegetables ranging from tomatoes, cabbages, chili, green bean, green paper and many others. He supplies hotels and supermarkets. Despite the difficulty economical situations the country is currently facing, Patrick is managing to be afloat and take care of his family because of the farm.

Contributed by

John Zulu National Heritage Conservation Commission

Other contributors

National Heritage Conservation Commission
Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority