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Zambia - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Zambia is a landlocked country in southern Africa. Forests, agro-ecosystems and wetlands are the most important ecosystems to the national economy and rural livelihoods. Biodiversity conservation to date has been undertaken through the management of the existing protected areas system, and promotion of sustainable utilization of natural resources in open areas.

Data collected from 2000 to 2011 confirms a significant deterioration in Zambia’s forest reserves due to encroachment through cultivation and settlement. By the end of this period, it was estimated that less than 50% of the forest reserve estate could be considered free from these threats. Over the past decade, more than 280,000 hectares of forest reserve have been de-gazetted or excised. A study published in 2014 concluded, using 2010 figures, that direct and indirect forest values (excluding the market value of carbon) directly contributed about 4.7% or USD 932.5 million to the GDP. However, when the multiplier effects of forestry and tourism-related activities on other sectors are considered, the overall contribution of forests to the GDP was estimated to be at least 6.3% or USD 1,252 million. The same study estimated that overall income derived from non-wood forest products is around USD 135.8 million per year.

Wetlands, including 8 Ramsar sites, cover 3.6 million hectares (4.8%) of the total land area. The fisheries subsector contributes about 3.2% to the GDP, with 300,000 persons directly or indirectly obtaining part of their income from this sector. Fish accounts for 29% of the animal protein supply in Zambian diets. More than 200 Crustacean species exist in various ecosystems in Zambia, of which more than half are endemics. The highest fish species richness is found in Lake Tanganyika, estimated to have over 200 species of fish, of which over 70% are endemic to the lake. This fishery needs special conservation attention, especially in view of the fact that it is a transboundary water body shared by four riparian countries (Tanzania, DR Congo, Burundi, Zambia). Catch assessment surveys are ongoing for the sardine known as Kapenta, originating from Lake Tanganyika, whose stocks have been significantly overexploited in the last 2 decades. A report to the Ramsar Convention in 2015 indicated improvement in the status of the Lukanga swamps, Bangweulu swamps and Liuwa Plains, although details on the scope of improvement are not provided.

Zambia’s agro-ecological systems are categorized into 3 agro-ecological regions (AERs), differentiated mainly by amount of rainfall received per annum. Small-scale farmers are responsible for producing 80% of output (their contribution to livestock production is around 30%). A small number of commercial or large-scale farmers are involved in commercial crop production in wheat, soya bean and sugar cane, and in livestock production. In spite of agro-biodiversity being a vital resource for the country, it has not been given adequate attention in terms of management and utilization compared to forestry, wild animals and the fisheries. As a result, agro-ecological systems are threatened today by a number of causes.

Mammal diversity is estimated at 224 species, with over 28 species and subspecies considered threatened, endangered or vulnerable. A project on Reclassification and Effective Management of National Protected Areas System (2010) identified approximately 43 species of large mammals as important in terms of: the potential income that can be generated from their use in photographic and consumptive tourism; their contribution to local household economies, as a source of protein and as a source of income through illegal market structures; and in terms of their aesthetical appreciation by the global community, including their existence value. These mammals comprise 9 species of large carnivores, 2 species of odd-toed ungulates, 31 species of even-toed ungulates and 1 species of elephant.

Since 2009, 24 new bird species have been identified in Zambia. However, over the past 15 years, a decline of around 35% has been recorded in site occupancy in the most Important Bird Areas (42 IBAs exist, 82% of which receive some form of protection). Current stocktaking lists 11 bird species as endangered.

Analysis of annual rainfall data for the 1950s-2000s period shows no trend in rainfall pattern across the country’s main agro-ecological regions (AERs), except with respect to the eastern part of AER III, consisting of Luapula, Northern and Muchinga Provinces and northern parts of Central Province, where there has been some increase in annual rainfall over time. In the meantime, temperature increases have been estimated at an average of 1.3 degrees Celsius over the past few decades.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Forest reserves are today significantly threatened by encroachment through cultivation and settlement. In the North-Western Province, this process is driven mostly by mining, while Northern Zambia has lost much of its primary cover to shifting cultivation. In the east, central and southern parts of Zambia, conversion of forest land to permanent crop agriculture is the main driver of loss. Bush fires, overexploitation of timber trees, invasive alien plant species are other contributing factors.

Threats to national parks, game management areas and mammals include human encroachment and illegal wildlife use, such as the poaching of large mammals for the bushmeat market. Other threats are habitat degradation caused by conversion for cropping, livestock grazing, charcoal production, among other factors. Furthermore, mining activities conducted for aquamarine, tourmaline and red garnets in certain protected areas have had negative effects on wildlife species and their habitats. Although mining licenses can be granted as long as an EIA is carried out and approved by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency, some small-scale mines are carrying out activities without licenses. Additional threats are wild fires, diseases and pesticides.

Threats to birds include habitat loss, hunting pressure, bird food shortage, droughts, floods and temperature variation.

Threats to aquatic systems and fish include habitat modification due to the damming of rivers, among other causes. They are also threatened by invasive alien species (water hyacinth, Kariba weed, carpet weed) and poor aquaculture practices.

Threats to invertebrates and their habitats include pollution, overexploitation of edible invertebrates (e.g. caterpillar worm) and uncontrolled fires threatening certain species, such as the butterfly Acrea acrita ambigua whose larvae is destroyed by frequent fires.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Zambia’s first NBSAP (1999) set out 14 targets distributed among 6 goals on: conservation of ecosystems through protected areas; conservation of genetic diversity; improving the legal and institutional framework and human resources to implement the strategies for conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits from biodiversity; sustainable use and management of biological resources; developing an appropriate legal and institutional framework and needed human resources to minimize the risks of GMOs; and ensuring the equitable sharing of benefits from the use of Zambia’s biological resources. However, due to a lack of monitoring, coordination and financing frameworks for this NBSAP, a review of achievements has revealed very weak direct results.

Zambia’s vision for biodiversity conservation is driven by Vision 2030 which promotes economic development that takes into account social and environmental safeguards and is operationalized in the country’s five-year national development planning cycle (soon to enter its 7th phase). Considered highly relevant to Zambia’s priorities, the 5 strategic goals of the current global plan and its Aichi Targets provide the overarching framework for Zambia’s second NBSAP for 2015-2025, which includes 18 national targets, accompanied by 45 strategic interventions, key performance indicators, key activities, responsible entities, narratives and assumptions. NBSAP-2 is underpinned by 11 principles promoting sustainable use, responsibility, equity, participation, awareness-raising, co-existence, knowledge, informed decision-making, strategic partnerships, enhanced conservation and financial sustainability. The document has been developed as a transformative strategy emphasizing evidence-based interventions, fully participatory processes, the important role of protected areas, incorporation of climate change resilience principles, restoration activities, the need for diverse financing mechanisms and a supportive policy, legal and regulatory framework. NBSAP-2 will also address the establishment of a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation framework, however there will still be a need to establish baselines for the various biodiversity components where gaps have been identified in the monitoring and evaluation plan.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Community involvement in conservation activities has increased as a result of incentives offered. A mechanism for sharing benefits from hunting concessions and other sources of income with communities, through Community Resource Boards (CRBs) and Game Management Areas (GMAs), has been developed. Zambia also expects to accede to the Nagoya Protocol on ABS by 2016.

Measures have been put in place for the control/eradication of invasive species at Lochinvar and Victoria Falls National Parks.

Recommendations from the project on the Reclassification and Effective Management of the National Protected Areas System carried out in 2010 address the gaps in representation of certain plant species (e.g. Dry Evergreen Forest, Kalahari Woodland, Miombo Woodland) and animal species (giraffe, Black lechwe, Kafue lechwe, Black Rhinoceros), within the existing National Parks and Game Management Areas. The project also recommended that management effectiveness of the overall system be improved. The network of Zambia’s statutory protected area today covers almost 40% of the country’s total surface area. Lusaka National Park was created in 2011 and is stocked with species, including endangered ones. Zambia’s protected areas system includes 480 Forest Reserves (305 Local Forests and 175 National Forests). The management objective in Local Forests is to meet the needs for forest products for present and future generations of local people, while the objective for establishing National Forests is to protect and conserve major water catchments and their biodiversity.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Zambia enacted the Environmental Management Act in 2011 which is the parent environmental legislation with strict requirements for EIA and SEA for any large-scale development project. The Wildlife Act is under review while the revised Forest Policy was approved in 2014 and the Forest Bill was enacted in 2015. In addition, a National Heritage Policy is under formulation. Although the Mines and Minerals Development Act was adopted in 2012, it fails to recognize the important role of biodiversity conservation and allows for mineral development in protected areas. In 2013, the Mining Policy was adopted promoting concepts of sustainable development, among other standards. The Water Resources Management Act and Fisheries Act were both adopted in 2011.

Zambia has developed a REDD+ Strategy.

Zambia has not commenced the growing of GMOs. However, the Government has adopted a precautionary principle on GMOs and products made from GMOs, as required by the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Through this approach, Zambia developed the Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy (2003), Biosafety Act (2007), as well as a few necessary regulations and guidelines. Two local laboratories were also set up for detecting GMOs. To that effect, the National Biosafety Authority Board was inaugurated in 2015 and charged with the responsibility of regulating research, development, application, import, export, transit, contained use, release or placing on the market of any GMO. The Zambian Africulture Research Institute has also been established for conducting research in the genetic diversity of cultivated crops.

The Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN), for which Zambia is a pilot country, will help strengthen the financing framework for the revised NBSAP.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

A key lesson learned from implementing the first NBSAP (1999) was the need for long-term investment in a well-coordinated and mainstreamed biodiversity monitoring system, which shall be addressed in the revised NBSAP.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme