The U.S. Embassy recently donated personal computers to help the non-governmental organization, Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO), train traditional leaders in Eastern Province in the use of satellite-mapping software to enable them to improve monitoring and protection of the forests and wildlife within their chiefdoms.
Data and information collected through the computers’ Geographic Information System (GIS) software will help the traditional leaders better plan their actions for preventing wasteful and destructive land uses, such as charcoal production and unplanned agricultural expansion. The GIS software also provides deforestation alerts and can detect forest fires, examine natural water resource usage, and monitor illegal logging in protected areas.
“We’re honored to assist COMACO with its combined effort to support local resource management, particularly to improve conservation,” said USAID/Zambia Economic Development Office Director Jeremy Boley. “This is a great opportunity to reuse these computers in a way that aligns with a mutual goal shared between USAID and COMACO—community-led participation in the management of Zambia’s natural resources.”
The 16 donated computers provide an important opportunity to pilot technology aimed at safeguarding Zambia’s natural resources for future generations while improving market opportunities for local communities. The computers and training will also help community leaders, particularly local traditional leaders, to monitor better the impact of their efforts to enact and enforce conservation plans.
“This training is a major step up for community-led conservation in Zambia. The participants now have knowledge to visually interpret satellite images of their chiefdoms using Google Earth to monitor deforestation and Global Forest Watch,” said COMACO Assistant GIS Officer Angel Makungu. “These technologies will give them access to a wealth of information that empowers them to better protect their forests with real-time information to find and track fire incidences and the rates of forest loss and gain.”
COMACO has been involved with community-based conservation in the Luangwa Valley for the last 15 years, and previously received support from the American people through The Better Life Alliance initiative, a public-private partnership that strengthened the link between smallholder farmers and agricultural markets and promoted crop diversity and conservation farming. The initiative brought together the U.S. government, the Norwegian government, the non-profit community, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and private sector companies, such as General Mills and Cargill. The Alliance strengthened food security and sustainable rural economic growth in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Feed the Future initiative focus area in Zambia’s Eastern Province.
In partnership with USAID, collaborators in local government and other committed partner organizations and donors, COMACO is able to continue working with rural communities to manage and generate community-level income without endangering local wildlife and other natural resources. COMACO provides various market incentives, some of which are tied to the sale of “It’s Wild!” food products, which has become a popular food brand in Zambia.