Helping Women in Zambia Manage a Vital Resource

07/16/2010 07:30 PM

On the shores of Zambia’s Lake Bangweulu, 26 young women stooped by the water with an assortment of gadgets, learning how take measurements of pH, depth, visibility, current and temperature. One student lowered a rope with a brick on the end and used it to gauge depth. Another used a clear, flat instrument called a secchi disk to measure visibility, while a third navigated the position of each data point using a GPS.

The young women were participating in a Global Footprint Network training program as part of the 10,000 Women Initiative, funded by Goldman Sachs, which seeks to provide managerial and business training to women in low-income regions of the world. The initiative, coordinated by Camfed International, is focused on using entrepreneurial approaches to solve the key social and environmental problems while offering women opportunities to advance their livelihoods and gain status in their communities.

The three-spotted bream and Nile tilapia from Lake Bangweulu form the very basis of survival in this poor rural region of northern Zambia, where fish are the main source of both food and income. Populations of fish in the lake have been declining over time, sparking a struggle between fisheries officials working to enforce seasonal fishing bans and villagers struggling to provide food and income for their families.

“The question we faced is, how do you set up a business that relieves some of the environmental pressues instead of adding to them, “ said Global Footprint Network Research Associate Anna Oursler, who led Global Footprint Network’s trainings.

Oursler showed the women how to use measuring instruments and gather environmental data as part of an Environmental Impact Assessment for establishing a fish cage in Lake Bangweulu. The cage would provide a method of fish farming that would increase the biocapacity of the lake, enable regulated harvests, and provide a food source so villagers would not have to catch fish illegally during the months of the ban, giving the wild fish an opportunity to recover.

When the women participating in the training began the session, most of them had never stepped into a fishing boat (this being considered men’s work). After three days of field work, the women had learned not only how to fish, but also how to manage a sustainable harvest that would allow them to maintain a healthy catch year after year.

Categories: Human Development

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