World Wetlands Day 2002: Zambia

01/02/2002

World Wetlands Day in Zambia, including remarks by the Minister for Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources

Good Morning ladies and gentlemen and welcome to World Wetlands Day 2002, a celebration of wetlands and their importance for people and for wildlife.

What is World Wetlands Day? 2 February each year is World Wetlands Day. It marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. WWD was celebrated for the first time in 1997 and it made an encouraging beginning. Each year, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community have taken advantage of the opportunity to undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general and the Ramsar Convention in particular.

The suggested theme for World Wetlands Day 2002 is "Wetlands: Water, Life, and Culture". Wetlands are a storehouse of cultural heritage which takes many forms, from human-made physical structures and artefacts, palaeontological records in sediments and peat, and traditional water and land-use management practices, to places of religious and mythological significance and the intangible 'sense of place' felt by many for these wild and often mysterious sites and their wildlife.

Throughout its history, the work of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has emphasized the importance of people in conservation efforts: their livelihoods, their welfare, their traditions and beliefs, their leisure as well as their work - not only their economic and social well-being, but their "cultural heritage" as well. Increasingly, the Parties have observed that there is much common ground in the biodiversity and heritage management of wetlands.

The Standing Committee this year has chosen the theme "Wetlands: water, life, and culture". Government agencies, non-governmental organizations, site managers and citizens are invited to explore cultural issues in their national and local contexts and seek to make their publics more aware of the cultural as well as the natural values of their wetlands. A job that I hope the media of Zambia will take to their hearts.

So without further ado I will now introduce Mr Nalumino, the project manager for WWF Partners for Wetlands, an innovative scheme designed to tie together the interests of local people, business and the environment. (Please keep your questions for the end)


Honourable Minister for Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources

Thank you very much for your kind introduction, Mr Nalumino. I am very pleased to be here on such an important day for our country.

To me in my role at the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resource, wetlands are of huge importance, they are a great opportunity for our country, and days like today help us to highlight just how valuable wetlands can be if they are properly managed for the future. Wetlands have always been key to the people of Zambia, the Bangweulu swamp, the Kafue Flats and the Lower Zambezi have been core areas for our development as a country providing resources for trade and now international interest from the likes of WWF Partners for Wetlands.

The relationship between people and water extends beyond the natural resources and vital services of wetlands. It also includes the rich cultural heritage that has evolved over time, this culture takes many forms, from human made physical structures and artifacts to places of special religious significance as well as traditional water and land use practices. Many of these practices have proved very successful over the years and it is important to remember that while conserving the natural resource is very important that it must also important to ensure that local people who have lived there generation after generation can still use the wetlands and make a good living for themselves and their families.

The Kafue Flats is a perfect example where people have taken a livelihood from the wetlands for generations but only now, with some subtle changes, has that use become unsustainable. Only in the last thirty years have the numbers of Kafue Lechwe and Wattled Crane begun to steeply decline. But why you may ask?

The reason that the Kafue Flats are in such need of help is complex but it can be put down to non-sustainable use of a natural resource. People are simply taking more than nature can replace. This is why we are delighted to see WWF taking steps in partnership with business, government and local people to ensure that this non-sustainable use does not continue but rather becomes a self supporting ecosystem that includes tourism, nature conservation, people and commercial business all within the Kafue Flats.

The Ministry would like to formally welcome WWF and their efforts to help enhance the natural resources of Zambia and in particular their work to curb poaching activities. WWF, through the Partners for Wetlands project encourages eco-tourism enterprises like the internationally renowned Star of Africa and Real Africa Safari's to invest in the resources of the Kafue Flats, last year a tented camp was opened in Lochinvar for the first time in more than twenty (20) years, bringing in tourists from all over the world and providing much needed employment for local people, giving an alternative to poaching for many rural people, who find it so hard to make a life in these isolated areas of the country.

And in Mazabuka, as Mr Nalumino already explained, WWF have been key in the setting up of the first large area conservancy in Zambia in partnership with important businesses such as Zambia Sugar, Nanga and Ceres Farms as well as the traditional ruler Honourable Chief Mwanachingwala. This is a huge undertaking that will have great rewards for the local people as every dollar or Kwacha earnt will go straight back into the area, either in the form of nature conservation activities or as improvement to the infrastructure, clinics, schools, roads, houses and much more.

As the Honorable chief would undoubtedly tell you if he were here, his area has a wonderful resource just waiting to be discovered, but wild areas that were once home to thousands of Kafue Lechwe and other wonderful antelope are now beareft of much wildlife, but still here there are almost 400 different types of birds and with the new village scouts in place we are starting to see again dyker and waterbuck in the area, buffalo have been spotted and hippos may well be making a comeback. All wonderful news for nature and for people.

In conclusion I would say that the Ministry for Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources is one hundred and ten percent behind the work of WWF and we are delighted to be asked here to lend our voice to celebrate World Wetlands Day 2002. We hope that through the events that spotlight our wonderful natural resources like World Wetlands Day, and the work of the Ministry in partnership with WWF and other NGO's that Zambia can enhance its natural resources as well as support our cultural diversity. This is our chance to really put Zambia on the map, the world is watching us, lets give them something to look at!

Ladies and gentlemen thank you very much.

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