This is where I came in. One of these swamplands occurs just south west of Lusaka in Zambia. The Kafue River rises in the industrial Copperbelt in the centre of Zambia – the first thing I ever remember seeing in Africa when I was heading to Zimbabwe on a jumbo jet in 1993. Its circuitous route takes the Kafue roughly south west and through one of Zambia’s larger national parks of the same name. The Zambians damned the river at this point to make the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam, but below this point the river passes through a gently inclined wide open plain, before narrowing through a series of gorges to discharge into Lake Kariba and the Zambezi River.
This plain is full of small lakes and channels fringed by extensive reed beds; it contains two more national parks (Lochinvar and Blue Lagoon), several other reservations and a whole load of communities specialized in reaping the rich protein of fish from its waters. Being so close to Lusaka, much of the fish is shipped off to the city and is potentially lucrative income for people living in the region.
As in many places, it is not all good news. There is the threat of overfishing of the stock as it is not being monitored and managed; there are invasive species such as crayfish and Nile perch or tilapia that could be nudging out the native species. Two dams; the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam at the top of the swamp and the Kafue Dam deep in the gorge, power a large proportion of Zambia’s electricity needs. Fundamental to this is a controlled flow of water, and villagers are complaining of the upsetting of the natural cycles of flood and retreat in the swamp that are damaging fish nursery habitats.
So the government wanted a plan for the Kafue Fisheries, taking forward an Act of Parliament , helping to monitor and manage the stocks and activity and any external threats. Problem was is how you define the Kafue Fisheries Area within which you can do all this monitoring and management and for that you needed a geographer. Me.