15 November, 2021
There are elephants in the forest
Quietly winding its way through the woodlands
in eastern Zambia, the Luangwa river passes through the Mbizi Farm, where it is
welcomed and celebrated as the aorta of this region, delivering much needed
water to villages, farmers and other communities. Where it reaches the Forest Stewardship
Certified® (FSC®) certified Mbizi Farm, it takes a
breather from the many demands it endures along its long and arduous journey.
Mbizi Farm has been around for a long time,
providing a personalised safari experience to visitors from around the
globe. Managed and owned by 2 Swedes,
Michael Dejestam and Lennart Packendorffit, it is the first FSC certificate in
Africa, and probably the world, where the wildlife management are fully
integrated with the commercial forest management objectives. A match made in FSC heaven.
The 17 000ha estate employs nearly 50 people
from the surrounding communities with whom it is truly integrated. As expressed by His Royal Highness, Senior
Chief Luembe, Mbizi is a true partner in their communities and beyond the
employment opportunities provided, Mbizi is also a significant contributor to
the local economy and provides significant support to these communities. Local churches, schools and clinics have all
benefitted from this relationship, as confirmed by the FSC audit team during
the certification audit conducted in April 2021.
The mixed Mopani woodlands contain many tree
species that are of significant importance to local communities for their fuel
and other needs. However, many of these
species also have significant commercial value and about 2400 m3/year of Mopani,
Kiaat, Pod Mahogany, and the Mukosa tree are harvested annually and processed
at the Mbizi Sawmill for the production of export planks and other timber
products. This is a first for the Mopani
ecoregion which covers extensive areas in Eastern Africa. For elephant, buffalo, leopard, lion and many
others, this is home. New machines and
technologies have been brought in to ensure low impact selective harvesting of
the trees is conducted in terms of forest management plans that allow for the
sustainable use of these woodlands and forests.
There is hope that the benefits reaped by Mbizi, will set a good example
and through the Afzelia Group Scheme, many others will follow and share in the
substantial benefits accrued from certified estates. Visitors to
Mbizi Farm will have the assurance that the values encapsulated in these
spectacular landscapes, will remain for a very long time, if not forever.
Decent housing and work conditions, provide
employees with a happy work environment, where they are allowed to thrive and
learn many new skills. These are
opportunities that are few and far between in rural Zambia.
Driving through this region, one observes
landscapes with quite significant human impacts. One understands that much of this is caused
by communities that are heavily reliant on crops and other products grown and
extracted from these landscapes. The
livelihoods of people are again trumping the ecosystems and thus it is
enheartening to see the Mbizi estate in near pristine condition and remaining
so whilst offering a host of financial benefits to the owners, workers and
communities alike. There are also
medium-term objectives to extract value from the ecosystem services available
here and this will much enhance the value of this FSC forest management
certificate. This again should lead to
bigger uptake of FSC Forest Management Certification in Zambia and the rest of
Africa, south of the Sahara.