Limited access to extension services hindering community based natural resources management
Lusaka, 01 September 2017:
Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) says the government needs to address the limited access to extension services which is hindering the sustainable management of the environment and natural resources at community level.
Zambia has adopted the Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) approach to achieve environmental sustainability. In this approach, the provision of extension services has been identified as one of the key ways to effective CBNRM as part of environmental sustainability.
While government policies identify the provision of extension services as one of the mechanisms for strengthening environmental sustainability, many community members do not have access to extension services. This absence of extension services leaves community members without the much-needed guidance and backstopping support in the management of natural resources. This has adversely affected sustainability of community level interventions for ENRM especially in fisheries, agriculture and forestry.
Through the implementation of the Deepening CBNRM project, a CSEF2 project funded by the Finnish Government, PSAf has learnt that in some communities, extension services are non-existent. In cases where the services are available, they are usually inadequate. This situation is due to inadequate resources such as finances and transport, as well as low staffing. For example, there are cases where only one officer is expected to provide extension services to vast district with many wards.
The availability of extension services is an important factor in the success of CBNRM activities as they create a channel through which experts can share information and impart skills on specific sustainable ENRM practices with community members. Limited access to extension services limits innovation among community members, forcing them to make the same mistakes, and thereby perpetuating unsustainable ERNM practices and environmental degradation.
PSAf therefore calls on the government to seriously and urgently address the limited extension service challenge faced by rural communities if environmental sustainability is to be achieved in the country. A starting point towards this would be for the government to improve the funding and staffing for departments that provide extension services, to enhance their capacity to provide the required extension services to communities.
Executive Director, Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf)
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