Advancing sustainable management of aquatic food systems in Zambia’s Lower Kafue Basin through a multistakeholder platform

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Resolving conflicting claims in the management of Zambia’s Lower Kafue Basin presents a daunting challenge for policymakers, producers, traditional authorities and researchers, among others. However, multistakeholder platforms (MSPs) that bring together a range of actors to collaboratively address competing claims and resource governance issues at landscape level have emerged as a form of collaborative governance approach in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recent paper that emphasises how MSPs can effectively harmonize competing claims.

But the impacts of MSPs on improving outcomes in the aquatic food system value chains of Zambia’s Lower Kafue Basin are, as yet, poorly understood. The stakeholders, including the private sector, communities, and state institutions, are grappling with challenges of resolving competing interests and flaring conflicts in the land-water-foodscape nexus.

Nevertheless, the basin remains vital for domestic and commercial water use, as well as supporting fisheries-based economies, livestock development, sugar plantations and hydropower generation. Overharvesting wild aquatic food stocks and poor governance of aquatic commons drive challenges such as the marginalization of traditional and Indigenous fishers and inequities in supply chains, potentially undermining the management of aquatic food systems.

To address these challenges, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and WorldFish, in collaboration with government and non-state partners, are leading a multi-sectoral initiative to enhance collective efforts in the sustainable management of the land-water-foodscape nexus in the Lower Kafue Basin. This multi-actor collaborative effort signifies a transition from traditional ‘top-down’ approaches to an inclusive, MSP-focused landscape approach to governance.

This initiative builds on previous efforts undertaken by IWMI and World Fish. “Timely investing in effective resilient aquatic food systems, informed by research, can address these threats and challenges by eliminating the key systemic challenges facing the sector, offering transition pathways to a more just, nutritious, healthier, lower-carbon and climate-resilient food system,” Shadreck Mungalaba, the acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, said during the MSP launch in Lusaka, Zambia, on 3rd October 2023.

The newly established Lower Kafue Basin MSP demonstrates that an integrated landscape approach (ILA), anchored on an MSP, is crucial in helping negotiate land-water-food trade-offs. It facilitates the timely investment in effective, resilient aquatic food systems, informed by research, to address these threats and challenges and supporting the transition to a more just, nutritious, healthy, lower-carbon and climate-resilient food system.

To safeguard the future of this valuable ecosystem, stakeholders across sectors in the Lower Kafue Basin recognize the crucial role of an MSP in mediating diverse interests in ensuring a sustainable aquatic food system. As such, the MSP provides a powerful mechanism to unravel the complexities in the land-water-food nexus, helping address landscape challenges and ensure the conservation of the river basin.

Furthermore, MSPs are championing a transformative approach to simultaneously managing fisheries and land resources, with a strong emphasis on multi-disciplinary collaboration across the entire watershed. This is a shift from the ‘siloed’ approach of segmented natural resource governance. By bringing together a diversity of actors including resource users from the landscape, there is an opportunity to improve resource governance and build co-ownership of decision-making outcomes.

The Lower Kafue Basin is spread accros sa six chiefdoms: Chief Nalubamba of Namwala, Chief Choongo of Monze, Chief Hamusonde of Monze, Chief Mungaila of Namwala, Chieftainess Muwezwa of Itezhi-Tezhi and Chief Mwanachingwala of Mazabuka. As one chief noted at the launch event, “ensuring resilient aquatic food systems and the general successful management of the Kafue basin depends on the collaborative efforts of diverse players.”

The newly launched MSP for the Lower Kafue Basin enhances transparent dialogue, leveraging the mix of technical and local skills, knowledge, and resources to achieve common agenda. It aims to facilitate the creation of resilient communities through the promotion of a sustainable livelihood practices and the introduction of a holistic integrated management approach to basin resources.

Participation of various stakeholders and especially those usually marginalized is essential for the success of the MSP. In the Lower Kafue Basin MSP, a governing council composed of members across sectors and interest groups representing different constituents including farmers and private sector actors, ensures a broad and equitable representation. This structure is expected to guarantee credibility and acceptability of decision outcomes.

The establishment of an MSP to enhance stakeholder engagement also underscores the importance of stakeholder commitment. During the launch of the Lower Kafue Basin MSP, participants pledged to support the ideals of the Lower Kafue Basin MSP, leading to the sustainable management of the Kafue landscape, through the statement of commitment. Such a commitment is crucial in achieving the desired landscape with a balance of social and ecosystem service provision in the basin and shows how important designing common framework in MSP can help advance the sustainable management of aquatic food system including in the Lower Kafue Basin.

 This story is by Freddie Siangulube, with contributions from Everisto Mapedza, MarieCharlotte Buisson and Victor Siamudaala.

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