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Global action for threatened wetlands

The Barotse Floodplains, can be highly productive, offering food security and a good income (© Georgina Smith/The WorldFish Center)
The Barotse Floodplains, can be highly productive, offering food security and a good income
© Georgina Smith/The WorldFish Center

The CGIAR Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS) programme has launched a US$59.4 million global research programme to protect floodplains and boost farm and fisheries productivity in the face of climate change and other threats. Over a three year period, the AAS programme will initially focus on three major types of aquatic agricultural systems found in Zambia (freshwater systems), Bangladesh (delta systems), and the Solomon Islands (Coral Triangle) and is expected to improve the lives of 15 million people by 2016.

Made up of a diverse range of income-earning activities like fishing, crop production livestock keeping and thatch-making from water reeds, aquatic agricultural systems like the Barotse Floodplains in Zambia, can be highly productive, offering food security and a good income. Yet globally, of more than 700 million people who depend on aquatic agricultural systems, more than one third live on less than US$1.25 a day.

Through development 'hubs' in all three initial countries of focus, local wetland communities will be consulted in a series of participatory workshops designed to shape an action research plan. The first 'hub' workshop, just completed in Mongu, Zambia's Western Province, highlighted the key development challenge: making effective use of seasonal flooding and natural resources on the Barotse Floodplain through productive and diverse aquatic agricultural management practices and technologies.

WorldFish Center Regional Director for Africa, Tabeth Chiuta, said she was impressed by the enthusiasm with which diverse stakeholders - from government, NGO's, researchers, fishermen and farmer groups to traditional leaders - seriously deliberated the issues and development challenges facing communities in the Barotse Flood Plain. She added that the workshop created a powerful platform to deliberate wider concerns for wetland communities such as more erratic and intensified flooding or periods of drought, higher prevalence of HIV and migration, lower levels of education and gender inequality.

The inclusive structure of the workshop invited views from often marginalised groups, in particular the traditional Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) which co-exists alongside official government. Induna Mayunyi, of the BRE, said indigenous knowledge and traditional methods of managing the floodplain should assist the research process. He acknowledged, however, that they needed assistance in how to improve their agricultural and fisheries productivity and diversify crop production.

Written by: Georgina Smith

Date published: June 2012


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