Traditional environmental knowledge among lozi people in mitigating climate change effects in the barotse plains of Western Zambia
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The genesis of this study comes from the realization that little was known about the role of traditional environmental knowledge among Lozi adults in mitigating climate change in the Barotse plains of Mongu District, Western Zambia. Climate change has indeed emerged as the most prominent global environmental problem (IPCC, 2007). At the time of conducting this study in the year 2015, negative effects of climate change were a source of great concern in Zambia. Climate change endangers not only our ecosystems, communities and cultures, but the future of humanity itself. Western Zambia and particularly south-western and southern Zambia lie in a zone of very high risk from the negative impacts of climate change, being at the southern extremity of the migratory track of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone. The Barotse plains are found in the rural part of Western Zambia experiencing high impacts of climate change coupled with high illiteracy rates. Few rural residents in Zambia have access to seasonal climate forecasts from the meteorological department. As observed by Salick and Byg (2010) in many such rural areas, indigenous people tend to use indigenous knowledge systems to solve their environmental problems. Although studies conducted elsewhere in Africa have shown that people in rural communities use indigenous knowledge systems to solve environmental problems (see Salick and Byg, 2010; Gyampoh, et al., 2007; Atteh, 1992), little was known about how Lozi adults in the Barotse plains of Western Zambia mitigated negative effects of climate change. This study was an attempt to fill in this knowledge gap. The study was guided by the following objectives: i) to find out how Lozi adults around Lealui Ward area of the Barotse plains had been affected by climate change; ii) to assess the role of traditional environmental knowledge among Lozi adults of Lealui Ward area in mitigating climate change; and iii) to establish what could be done to enhance traditional environmental knowledge among Lozi adults around Lealui Ward area in mitigating climate change. In order to achieve these objectives, the following specific research questions were formulated: i) how have Lozi adults around Lealui Ward area of the Barotse plains been affected by climate change; ii) what is the role of traditional environmental knowledge among Lozi adults of Lealui Ward area of the Barotse plains in mitigating climate change; and iii) how can traditional environmental knowledge among Lozi adults around Lealui Ward area of the Barotse plains be enhanced to mitigate climate change? This research was a case study, which employed more qualitative than quantitative approach to collect and analyse data. The pilot study was conducted in Kalabo while the main research was in Lealui Ward area in the Barotse plains of Mongu District, Western Zambia. According to statistics captured in the 2010 national census, Mongu had a population of 179,585 people. Interestingly only about a quarter of this population live in Mongu town, while the majority live in the Barotse plains (http://www.zamstats.gov.zm). The sample consisted of one hundred and thirty (130) subjects drawn from the target population: one hundred (100) indigenous Lozi adult respondents who utilize the Barotse plains resources in Lealui Ward area, twenty-five (25) local leaders like village headmen and senior traditional leaders known as area indunas, as well as five (5) institutions that provide education in environmental sustainability to mitigate climate change in Mongu District. According to the findings of the study, it is evident that the indigenous Lozi people of the Barotse plains community in Western Zambia had already started being affected by the effects of the climate change. The main negative effects included increase in atmospheric temperature and excessive heat in the plains; floods; prolonged dry spells; reduction in precipitation; unexpected xiii changes in seasons and their durations; reduction in food production, food security, water supply, energy and income; increase in diseases like malaria and diarrhoea among humans, heat stress among livestock; extinction of some species of plants, insects, birds and fish; and erosion of indigenous cultural social life of the Lozi people. The study also revealed that traditional environmental knowledge among the Lozi adults was important in mitigating climate change. Indigenous Lozi people and local communities in Mongu District were actively involved in innovative solutions based on their traditional knowledge, such as reducing emissions through use of non-polluting modes of transport and fire management techniques, adopting renewable energies in their territories, and engaging in resource management culture and projects that reduce pressure on natural resources and enhance local adaptive capacity. The study findings further showed that climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies using indigenous knowledge could be enhanced through cross-pollination of knowledge, co-operative work and concerted effort between the indigenous people of the Barotse plains and other stakeholders. In conclusion, this study, therefore, may add value to the role of indigenous knowledge systems, cardinal in adult education. The study revealed that climate change was already a reality and posed threats and dangers to the survival of the Barotse plains’ Lozi communities, culture and livelihoods. The study also found out that traditional environmental knowledge among Lozi adults around Lealui Ward of the Barotse plains was very important in mitigating climate change and needed to be enhanced. The study further revealed that local traditional environmental knowledge found among Lozi adults could be enhanced through collaborative strategies of integration with Western science. It is also hoped that the study may help to provide and enhance both literature in theoretical terms as well as evidence on the actual role of traditional environmental knowledge in mitigating climate change among Lozi adults in the Barotse plains of Western Zambia. In light of the findings, the study recommends that there is need for the Government of Zambia and other policy-makers to always consult and involve people in communities including indigenous people in rural areas during policy and project planning, policy-making, project implementation, monitoring and evaluation stages to achieve sustainable development by all and for all people. There is also great need for the country to undertake intensified energy switching initiatives mainly from fossil fuels like diesel to solar, wind, mini-hydropower and sustainable forest management. These projects can greatly contribute to the global reduction in greenhouse gases emissions and promote sustainable development in Zambia. The study also recommends intensifying promotion of conservation and organic agriculture to enhance mitigation of climate change. The Government and other stakeholders should promote and facilitate irrigation schemes in communities throughout the country to reduce hunger, rural poverty and enhance food security and sustainable development. The study further suggests that future research could be undertaken to investigate perceived extinction of some plant and animal species related to effects of climate change, not only in the Barotse plains, but in other parts of Zambia highly effected by the global warming.
University of Zambia
- Education