By Life Connected

Introduction to our plan

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“A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.”

Peter Marshall

In Kafue National Park, located in Zambia, there is still much to be gained in terms of nature and local economy. Many of the locals live in poverty, and in combination with a lack of involvement or sense of ownership, enough people choose to enter the park (not fenced) for often unsustainable sources of income (bush encroachment and poaching). They simply need to feed their families. The result is that the vegetation and animal populations suffer on a large scale. With regard to animal populations, it is estimated that only 10% to 20% of carrying capacity is left.

The whole situation seems unnecessary, because the potential for preservation of nature, but also prosperity for the locals, is enormous in and around this Park. The Greater Kafue National Park (gKNP) is 1.3 times the size of The Netherlands, this includes the National Park but also the Game Management Areas surrounding the park. This gKNP area contains a variety of landscapes; from Serengeti-like grasslands to marshes and dense forests. In addition, it is part of the Kavango Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Areas which links large nature parks (including the Okavango and Chobe) from five different countries. When the ecological corridor of KAZA is completed, animals can migrate freely from one park and/or country to another. This would make the rehabilitation of Kafue more than plausible.

It has always been our belief that nature can only be maintained in the long term by involving all stakeholders in its conservation. In order to achieve this, there is a great need for a holistic sustainability policy in which effective communication is essential. There are so many potential connections, opportunities and gains to be obtained by sharing information and effective communication, but the problem is that the infrastructure that makes this all possible is incomplete. There is a lack of solid infrastructure that helps people and organizations understand each other and thereby gain and maintain trust. By developing this, By Life Connected can contribute to the preservation of nature (including humans and cattle) in and around Kafue National Park. Imagine a central place, both physically and digitally, where reliable information, services and ideas come together and are displayed and distributed as clearly and equally as possible. A local market, knowledge centre, job site, database, bank, training institute, volunteer bank, etc. All in one. Under the direction of By Life Connected, this Information & Communication platform could serve society as part of nature. From here we believe that new business opportunities and charity projects will automatically arise, set in motion by the people that are connected through the platform. Our personal life goal?:

  • Promoting the harmony between people and nature so that ultimately the natural world can be preserved for the current generations of people, plants, wild animals and livestock, and the future generations of babies, seeds, cubs, chicks and calves.

The ambitions of By Life Connected with regard to the greater Kafue National Park?:

In the digital world:

  • Identifying the role of stakeholders (residents, businesses, philanthropy and government) in the gKNP, so that integrated cooperation can be achieved between all these parties involved. Who is who, what do they do, where and why?
  • Classifying and linking the supply and demand of stakeholders in the gKNP on the basis of relevant social sectors, so that unforeseen opportunities can be realized. Who offers and requires what?
  • Combining, analysing and visualizing data of stakeholders in the gKNP, so that all stakeholders can make informed decisions. What happens to whom, what and where through time, and why?

In the physical world:

  • Informing, empowering, connecting and involving stakeholders by setting up community-based associations and organizing activities in the gKNP, so that all stakeholders can jointly built on the foundation for co-creating a sustainable future.

Read more about the research behind this plan below.

 

Sustainability

In current debates on nature conservation, nature conservation and economic growth are often represented as two extremes. However, nature conservation and economic growth are not opposites, they are interconnected. In our pursuit of economic prosperity, people influence nature in different ways and on a global scale, such as changes in climate and land use. As humans we are a fully linked, interactive part of planet earth. This connectivity shows that nature is not only influenced by us, but it also shows how dependent people are of their natural environment. This philosophy is the basis of what we, from By Life Connected, stand for. We see sustainability as thé way to think carefully and deliberately about the role we play in the global ecosystem. Not only for the benefit of flora and fauna, but also for the welfare of the present and future generations of people. We regard "nature conservation" therefore not only as the conservation of flora and fauna, but also of man and their cattle. Everything that is alive is in fact connected through socio-ecological systems (SES). The question that then remains is: what is needed to make people live sustainably?

A very important aspect in answering this question is trust; trust in the SES you are part of. This trust depends on four personal incentives: knowledge, belonging to a community, trust in each other and self-enrichment. The extent to which the SES complies with the equal realization of these incentives is an indication of social stability. For example, a lack of opportunities for self-enrichment, or an unfair and unjust distribution of this, can lead to social dilemmas and discontent. The result is that people tend to switch to short-term thinking to protect their interests, which will lead to less sustainable use of natural resources.

Communication

Due to the interdisciplinary nature (environmental, social and economic) and different scale levels (individual, nation, world) of sustainability challenges, they cannot be solved in isolation. For e.g. nature conservation to work, all stakeholders need to collaborate for the long-term.

Because sustainability challenges are goals that require long-term cooperation, frictions and uncertainties between stakeholders could reduce the chances of achieving these goals. This makes such challenges and their achievement vulnerable. For many governments this vulnerability is one of the reasons to regain central control of the management of natural resources. However, in practice this often results in unsustainable use of the available resources. But there is a way to a middle ground between mistrust in the SES and centralization that will eventually lead to social stability and trust. According to experts in the field of nature conservation, the solution lies in the basis of human organization: effective communication. Communication is essential for everything that people do together; it connects us, it enables us to understand each other and through which we can organize ourselves. Effective communication is a property that is not self-evident and in which investments must be made. With increasing complexity of human collaboration, effective communication requires an ever-increasing investment; it requires more resources, expertise and clarity about the distribution of responsibilities. With a purpose such as nature conservation, however, organizations must communicate on such a large scale, and with so many people, that the investment required to achieve this becomes too great and is no longer viable for organizations to carry alone. Subsequently, gaps may occur in the communication, due which e.g. hard-to-reach population groups are excluded. This could result in an unequal realization of the four personal incentives which jeopardizes the collaborative effort of all stakeholders to co-create a sustainable future. To counter this, there is a growing need for an organization that facilitates this collaboration, by focusing on the exchange of information and maintaining effective communication. By doing so the gaps in communication can be filled and organizations can use their limited resources more efficiently. We at By Life Connected strive to be that organization.

Kafue National Park

We have seen with our own eyes what effective communication and collaboration between stakeholders can mean for an area in terms of nature conservation (see case study below). Let's take the greater Kafue National Park (GKNP) in Zambia, consisting of both Kafue National Park and the Game Management Areas (GMAs), as an example to show what role By Life Connected could play here. As with other nature parks in the world, many stakeholders are active in and around this nature reserve. As far as they can, they contribute to the sustainability policy. However, they all have their own agenda and effective communication and collaboration can still contribute significantly to stabilizing the SES. Research indicates that the local population living around GMAs do not know the exact boundaries of the nature reserve, or what their rights are with regard to participation in the management of natural resources and the distribution of the benefits. There is also friction between the locals in Namwala GMA and between the locals and the management of the nature reserve (DNPW)vi. Immigration and land disputes among tribes, but also the failure to honour existing agreements, lead to a lack of identity and trust in each other. In addition to a lack of knowledge, identity and trust, communication could also contribute a lot to self-enrichment. For example, who is going to put effort into connecting a small supermarket in Nalusanga, that still has tomatoes left, to Pinnon Lodge, that is still looking for tomatoes to feed their guests? Who facilitates the connection between Mark from Mumbwa, who has just completed his Resource Management training, and The Nature Conservancy, who still have vacancies open? Who communicates that an investor in the Netherlands, who wants to mean something for others in Africa, can help Tamara from Namwala GMA, who has just developed her business plan?

Case study: in the tropical primary forests of Palawan live the last nomadic, native tribes of the Philippines. Before they became part of the Philippino society and the global market through globalization and other developments, they trusted their relatively small SES; all four principles were realized in an equal and just way. The connection to the outside world, and the associated products, services and opportunities, changed their personal incentives; they had little knowledge about the outside world, they were seen as "the people from the forests", their vulnerability was abused by others and they could not compete for jobs. Once they were part of the larger SES though, they couldn’t go back, resulting in great social insecurity. The result of this is that the natural resources they had easy access to, resin from the Almaciga and honey from forest bees, were overexploited. In the long, this not only endangered the conservation of nature, but also their own environment and livelihood. This situation has largely been remedied by the intervention of the Centre for Sustainability, an NGO in Palawan. They became the intermediary for the local tribes and the municipality. By means of effective communication and stimulating cooperation between stakeholders, they have ensured that the indigenous tribes now have more knowledge about the outside world, they have been able to determine their identity in this larger SES, they have more chances for self-enrichment and they have a better relationship of trust with the outside world that has expressed itself in the realization of Cleopatra's Needle Critical Habitat.

Literature

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