Researching sustainability in Zambia

Our project Coop4Wellbeing has entered its second phase, which is dedicated to field research in Zambia. Together with colleagues from People in Need and the Department of Development and Environmental Studies at Palacky University, we took off to Zambia in February 2022. During our month-long fieldwork we mapped the links and dynamics between nature and society whilst focusing on the interplay between these linkages and the projects of Czech development cooperation.

Western Province is characterized by its remoteness, relative underdevelopment, high poverty rates, and also by the strong presence of the traditional structures of the kingdom of Barotseland intertwining with the regional and national government. At the same time, Western Province is a target region of Czech development cooperation, with the majority of projects focusing on sustainable livelihoods.

Therefore, before leaving to the field, we co-created a set of questions with the actors of Czech development cooperation that are essential for their practice:

  • How is wellbeing being shaped and how is it perceived by the development cooperation recipients?
  • How do people get access to land and how do they deal with unclear ownership?
  • What is the long-term perspective of subsistence farming and how is it influenced by various environmental aspects?
  • How are topics such as gender, inequality, power structures and/or the coexistence of traditional and statutory structures being embedded and reflected in the social-ecological system?

We used this set of questions as a starting point for our fieldwork in Zambia and we searched for the answers using social-ecological system mapping.

Altogether, we carried out 18 interviews with people from various ministries, traditional structures or local NGOs, and 6 focus groups with farmers and community volunteers. We mostly focused on the respondents’ perceptions of the system, i.e., what works well, what needs some improvements, what challenges people are facing or what aspirations they have. Each interview and focus group produced data in the form of a recording as well as a diagram of the social-ecological system that was drawn directly during the interview / focus group.

In the upcoming months, we will analyze all the data and bring back the outcomes to the actors of Czech development cooperation as part of another participatory workshop. There, the research team together with the actors of Czech development cooperation will work on the co-creation of a set of action steps and recommendations on how to embed the outcomes of the research in current development practice. The results of the analysis will also shape upcoming research activities in Zambia, primarily a questionnaire survey.

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