By Humphrey Nkonde
Elephants have gone into extinction in Nsama area in Northern Province and can now only be found in Nsumbu National Park further north at the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika.
The dwindling number of wild animals in the area can impact negatively on the development of the northern tourism circuit.
What is referred to as the northern tourism circuit covers the Northern, Luapula and Muchinga provinces, but major attractions narrow to Nsumbu National Park and beaches surrounding Lake Tanganyika, the second deepest fresh water lake in the world after Baikal of Siberia.
Most of the tourists coming to Zambia are interested in wildlife, the reason they spend short periods of time in Livingstone to view the Victoria Falls and then proceed to wildlife sanctuaries such as Chobe Game Park in Botswana.
In response to the diminishing number of animals, wildlife conservation has emerged in places near Lake Tanganyika including Nsama located between Mporokoso and Nsumbu.
Nsama had several elephants in the 1970s when most of the people concentrated on catching fish in Lakes Chishi, Mweru wa Ntipa and Tanganyika, the latter being the only place in Zambia that can support sub-marine tourism.
Nsama is rich in history in general and wildlife as well as fishing in particular, the last of which have been well-documented in Scottish explorer David Livingstone’s travel book.
Dr Livingstone was in the area in September 1867, met Chief Nsama, witnessed trade in fish by the local people and business in ivory by the Arabs.
The Scottish explorer was there shortly after Arabo-Swahili trader Tippo Tip from Zanzibar invaded Tabwaland in order to control trade in ivory and salt, which the local people distilled from mud that was collected from the shores of Lake Mweru.
Trade in ivory reported by Dr Livingstone confirms the presence of elephants in Nsama in the past.
Business executive Gilbert Chansa Kabuta, who grew up in Nsama, said in an interview that he used to see elephants when he lived there in the 1970s.
“I used to see elephants in the 1970s in Nsama area,” Mr Kabuta said from his lodge in Ndola. “They can now only be found in Nsumbu National Park.”
According to the Atlas of National Parks of Zambia that has been published by the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), animals in Nsumbu and surrounding areas include elephants, buffalo, hippo, zebra, sable antelope, monkey and baboon.
Others are waterbuck, common duiker, sitatunga, warthog, kudu, leopard and eland.
Nsumbu National Park was established by first President Kenneth Kaunda’s UNIP government in 1972, the year which also saw the creation of Kaputa district.
In that year, Dr Kaunda visited Nsama area, which was then part of Mporokoso district before it was ceded to Kaputa district and finally became a separate district under deceased President Michael Sata’s government.
“I lived in Nsama when Dr Kaunda came there in an helicopter that landed at Kabobole Basic School,” Mr Kabuta explained.
The late Dauti Yamba, who in 1946 was the first president of the Federation of Welfare Societies, lived in Nsama and constructed what is now the council chamber.
At that time the now council chamber belonged to the Tabwa Native Authority, which like many others, served as a council before Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) got independence from Britain.
In 1948, the Federation of Welfare Societies was transformed into the Northern Rhodesia African Congress and later into a fully-fledged political party known as the African National Congress (ANC).
The late Ronald Penza, who was one of the ministers in the late second President Frederick Chiluba’s government, was partly educated at Nsama Local Education Authority (now Nsama Basic School).
As a young man, Mr Penza must have seen the potential of the area in tourism and when he was Minister of Finance, Kasaba Bay, which was part of Nsama, was ceded to Mpulungu district.
It was from Kasaba Bay that Dr Kaunda had a meeting with the late Mozambican President Samora Machel before he died in a plane crash on October 19, 1986 in South Africa.
And due to the invasion of Tabwaland by Tippo Tip in 1867, Nsama was among the first places in Zambia where the Islamic faith was introduced, with some of the advisers of Chief Nsama having belonged to that religion.
Wildlife and fish conservation
In spite of Nsama having a rich history, it has lagged behind in terms wildlife and fish conservation.
It is surrounded by three big lakes Mweru wa Ntipa, Tanganyika and Chishi.
Poor fishing methods such as the use of mosquito nets and rebranded fishing nets with small eyes, have led to the depletion of fish stocks in Lake Mweru wa Ntipa.
Most of the fishermen have migrated to Nsumbu on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, thereby complicating politics in Chimbamilonga Constituency in which candidates from Nsumbu have an upper hand in terms of votes.
Lack of conservation efforts led to the creation of Chansa Walala Game Park by Mr Kabuta in 2009 in Nsama area.
The game park has a manager and three game scouts who work in collaboration with ZAWA.
Fred Kabwe Mutepa, who manages the game park, said in an interview that more than 10 rifles, shotguns and muzzle loaders have been confiscated from poachers, on top of 200 wire snares that have been combed out of the private wildlife reserve.
“We have handed over the guns to ZAWA and Chief Nsama is aware about that,” Mr Mutepa explained.
There are, however, complaints to the traditional authority that villagers have been prevented from fishing from Kashile seasonal water ponds and Mwamukwa Stream.
The explanation by management of the privately-owned game reserve is that some fishermen use poisonous substances to kill fish, which in turn can exterminate animals, given that the water from which fishing is done is also the source of drinking water for wildlife.
Another explanation is that other fishermen use mosquito nets to catch fish including fingerlings or connive with poachers by telling them the movements of the game scouts.
Fishermen are only allowed to fish at fee of K50, and are restrained from going there during the fish ban imposed by the fisheries department at the end and beginning of the year or can only fish after their methods have been approved by the game scouts.
Whilst in Mfuwe recently, President Edgar Lungu received a complaint from residents living around South Luangwa Game Park that there were limited opportunities in managing game reserves by the local people.
This is the same in many places throughout Zambia and Nsama is not an exception.
Participation by the local people is one of the reasons Chansa Walala Game Park was created and once game cropping starts when the numbers of animals go up and lodging as well conference facilities are constructed, 10 percent of the profits will be given to the local community.
At the moment there is only wildlife, fish and tree conservation going on in the game park.
Management is planning to construct a lodge and conference facilities, which can be used by the newly-established Nsama district.
It is expected that lodging facilities would also be used by students learning wildlife conservation, fisheries and other allied disciplines.
Local pupils have been targeted for photographic hunting so that they appreciate animals in pictures rather than killing them.
The rural-based conservation project was endorsed by Chief Nsama before it was registered as a business entity while its operations were approved by the ZAWA board on February 15, 2011.
At that time police were only present in Mporokoso and Kaputa, but now a police station has been established in the area following the creation of the new district by the Patriotic Front (PF) government.
Poachers, guns and wire snares can now easily be surrendered to the police while fish levies from the game park are electronically wired to the headquarters in Ndola following the revival of the Post Office that did not function for many years.
During campaigns in 2006, at which Mr Sata introduced Mr Kabuta as the candidate for Chimbamilonga Constituency on the PF ticket, the deceased President promised that he would turn Nsama into a district.
“True to his words, the late Mr Sata turned Nsama into a district,” Mr Kabuta said.
In the 1970s, the then Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) claimed some parts around the lakes, which led to the creation of Kaputa at the border for security reasons.
Chief Kaputa, under whom the name was derived, was junior to Senior Chief Nsama, which somewhat brewed traditional wrangles.
It was then that Mr Sata created the new district in the name of Chief Nsama whom Scottish explorer Dr Livingstone described in his travel book as the African Napoleon due to his iron-fisted leadership.
Chansa Walala Game Park has developed a business plan that has been presented to the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) that recently advertised for projects in newly-created districts including Nsama.
Wildlife conservation that it intends to promote has the potential to transform the northern circuit into a tourist destination like Livingstone from its wildlife around Lake Tanganyika, not forgetting Kalambo Falls in Mbala and Mporokoso’s Lumangwe Falls, the second largest after Victoria Falls.