Connecting local responses around the world
Millions of people around the world are dependent upon aquatic agricultural systems for their livelihoods. In fact, all of us are, in some way or another.
In Zambia, there are communities living within the Barotse Flood Plain who must deal with seasonal flooding patterns that saturate the surrounding fertile land. Each time the Zambezi river floods, these communities must pack up their belongings and move to higher ground. They have been doing this for centuries, but the seasonal flooding is becoming increasingly unpredictable. These communities rely upon farming and fishing for their livelihoods. All their activities for survival depend upon this river ecosystem.
The World Fish Centre is part of a global consortium of research organisations and development agencies called CGIAR. They are leading a programme for improving the livelihoods of communities dependent upon Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS) through a program which aims to marry research with community development. The programme is focussing on 3 countries; Zambia, Solomon Islands and Bangladesh. The World Fish Centre have invited the Constellation to accompany them on this journey, and to help them unlock the local wisdom and strengths of local communities who have been responding to floods and managing their natural resources for centuries, and to stimulate local responses. This is new ground for everyone - we are learning together.
Last week Onesmus and I travelled to the remote town of Mongu, in the Barotse Flood Plain in Zambia, where we met with stakeholder groups from government, research institutions, local NGOs, private sector and the "indunas" (local chiefs). This was the first step in this process. Below is a summary of the 3 day event:
We stimulated the participants to share their concerns (as opposed to problems) for the Barotse Flood Plain. During the session there was confusion around the word "concern" and how it differs from "problems" Concerns come from a place that is personal and deep. They go hand in hand with hope for the future. Concerns are dealt with by drawing from strengths.
To illustrate the difference, one participant shared his own interpretation. "Imagine I am on my way home from Mongu to Lusaka. I hear a noise - Bang! Shhhhhhhhh! - and I realise that my tyre has punctured. My PROBLEM is that my tyre has burst. My CONCERN is how to get home to my family."
The group's concerns for the Barotse Flood Plain were for the improved livelihoods of the people, and better use of traditional methods for flood management and canal rehabilitation.
The participants built and shared their dreams in stakeholder groups. Some of these can be viewed in the Photo Album posted on this NING site. They dreamed for better health and nutrition, a stronger economy based on their agricultural goods and local communities working together to manage local resources effectively.
In groups, the participants were stimulated to think about the key practices that would lead to their dream. They identified the following strategic areas (key practices will be drawn from these):
1. Manage and use natural resources effectively
2. Access to Markets
3. Working with others
4. Good health and nutrition
6. Improved productivity and diversification of species
7. Post-harvest handling
8. Ownership and sustainability
9. Learning and adaptation / Sharing knowledge
10. Innovation and utilisation of available technologies
11. Canal rehabilitation
The stakeholder's workshop was just the beginning of a long and exciting process. The next step is to build from these discoveries as we develop an AAS Competence approach, together with a new network of local facilitators. These local facilitators will, in turn, apply the approach with the local communities in the Barotse Flood Plain, to inspire and stimulate local responses.
The same is occurring with communities in Bangladesh.
What a joy and honour to be a part of this!
For more information on any of the above, or if you have some experience to share, please contact the AAS Zambia team; Olivia Munoru and Onesmus Mutuku.