With stunning wildlife, Africa’s second-largest protected area network, healthy river systems, and relatively low population density, Zambia stands out as a wild gem. At its heart is the Kafue ecosystem — 16 million acres of tropical woodlands, wetlands, and savannas. 

Communities inhabit the vast, protected buffer of Game Management Areas that encircle Kafue and Zambia’s 19 other national parks. However, with limited resource rights, they also have little stake in their protection. Consequently, poaching and degradation have become issues. 

With Africa’s population estimated to grow by 1 billion by 2050, communities will determine the fate of the continent’s wildlife and wild lands. Zambia’s wild heart will survive only if communities become not just beneficiaries, but drivers of conservation. We’ve seen this proven in Kenya and Namibia. Now, we’re seeding this approach in Kafue so that it can spread nationwide.  

At the same time, we’re strengthening park management and sharing planning tools to minimize impacts from mining and infrastructure development. And with demands on water resources increasing, we’re building a public-private partnership to protect the Kafue Basin as a critical source of water for nature, people, and industry. 


We’re helping protect this national treasure by increasing security for keystone species and improving ecotourism revenue potential for neighboring communities. We’ve also established a fire management program with Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, and experts from The Nature Conservancy’s Arkansas Chapter. And we were honored to be enlisted to lead the aerial surveys in Zambia for Paul G. Allen’s Great Elephant Census, which showed increasing numbers of elephants in Kafue National Park and will help determine how to best allocate limited resources within and beyond the park’s boundaries. 


We believe that it is possible for communities to benefit from the natural resources they live with and to protect those resources for the long-term. We’ve helped the Kaindu community secure management rights to more than 150,000 acres, including Zambia’s first community-run game ranch, and trained 700 households in conservation agriculture — increasing food security while reducing poaching and habitat conversion.


We’re working with the government of Zambia and key stakeholders to create a plan that balances growing demand for resource extraction, large-scale agriculture, energy, and infrastructure with efforts to conserve and protect essential resources, like drinking water and fisheries. Government officials have also committed to applying The Nature Conservancy’s “Development by Design” resource planning method to help maximize production and minimize impact.


Rivers, lakes, groundwater resources, and wetlands are all major sources of industrial and domestic water supply in Zambia. But they are all threatened by groundwater pollution, forest degradation, and high levels of water extraction. Innovative solutions supported by rigorous science, strong collaboration, and smart financing are required to secure the long-term sustainability of the water sources people and wildlife need to thrive. We’re focusing our water security efforts on the Lukanga Swamp, which serves as a natural filter and plays a critical role in regulating water flow. 

Our history of success and diverse partnerships give us great hope for the future. Together, we can overcome the challenges ahead to improve the quality of life for Zambia’s people, protect its wildlife, and conserve some of the most extraordinary lands and waters on Earth.    


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