Zambia is either customary land (94%) under some measure of
control by chiefs and headmen, or state land (6%), comprising
protected areas and land held under 99-year leasehold. Protected
areas and their resources are prone to alienation by the
state for mining, forestry, fisheries and wildlife exploitation.
Customary land comprises villages and their surrounding agricultural
land, the remainder being the customary commons
that is harvested and plundered for its natural resources by
residents, non-residents and criminals. It is also subject to
alienation to leasehold by chiefs and government officials, and
appropriated by the state for agriculture and agribusiness, forestry,
fisheries, mining, tourism, wildlife conservation and
game harvesting. Customary area residents with significant
wildlife populations are 30% poorer than those living elsewhere.
Customary residents have no ownership or harvesting
rights to game animals. To counteract the open-access harvesting
and plunder of customary land and the protected land associated
with it, it is proposed that statutory trusts be
established by customary communities, that customary land
be vested in them, and that they enter into co-management
custodial and harvesting agreements with the state in respect to fisheries, forestry, water and wildlife. Between 2003 and
2011, the author attempted to implement his model, called
Landsafe, in two adjoining chiefdoms in the Luangwa Valley.
This article proposes that the successful implementation of
Landsafe would assure customary residents secure access to
land and lasting benefits from renewable natural resources, essential
to biodiversity conservation and to the socioecological
and cultural integrity of Zambia.