Women for Change is implementing a one-year project called Community led- Sustainable Forestry Management project with funding from Counterpart under the Fostering Accountability and Transparency (FACT) project.
Its objective is to facilitate the involvement of local communities, traditional institutions and other stakeholders based on equitable gender participation to achieve sustainable forest management.
The project focuses on improving service delivery through increased community participation in the management of natural resources.
To kick start the project, WfC officers, Mutinta Malumo and Alfred Simaye travelled to the implementation target area located in Eastern province in Petauke district where the organization undertook community awareness and advocacy meetings which were held in Sandwe Chiefdom from 27th January to 10thFebruary, 2016.
The advocacy meetings were held with various stakeholders in the district that included traditional leaders, government forest departments and civil society organisations that promote sustainable use of natural resources.
Among the stakeholders met were the District Agricultural Coordinating Officer (DACO) who was sitting in for the District Commissioner (DC), the District Zambia Wildlife Authority Officer who expressed concern over the destruction of trees which had destroyed the bushes, exposed the environment and driven wild animals far away hence making game ranging and tourism difficult.
The other two meetings were with COMACO and His Royal Highness Chief Sandwe who asked the organization to carry out community sensitizations in all the areas of his chiefdom.
The Chief was emphatic on the need for preservation of forest in his chiefdom. He gave examples of how trees had been destroyed in the neighbouring chiefdoms of Nyampande, Mwanjabantu, Mumbi and others.
He, however, added that his chiefdom was rich because it still had thick forests hence the need to protect it as soon as possible and he indicated readiness to work with WfC to see to it that his community manage the forestry well.
The Chief gave ten areas that he thought needed much attention and these are Chizalira, Sopa, Ukwimi A, Mwanika, Chibale, Mutondo, Sichilima, Musapenda, Musazala, Chibamba satellite and Chikoba.
Following a series of meetings with various stakeholders, WfC also undertook community sensitization meetings on the project in Sopa -Mpasi Village, Chiwale, Sichilima, Mwanika, Msazala, Msapenda, Chibambe, Chizalira, Mtondo ares.
Key achievements of the initial activity include acceptance of the project by stakeholder, improved knowledge on the importance of the forest in their livelihood.
Meanwhile, the visit revealed that the majority of women have not been able to access information and are unaware of some changes that have been put across by the government to protect and promote their rights due to cultural practices that limit their ability to seek information.
The project will therefore provide the people of Sandwe a good platform to access information and learn about community-led forest management. This will result in citizen action where people are able to demand for information or some justifications and demand for better services.
This in turn will help the service providers to make the information accessible to the intended parties on time.