Zambia has abundant water resources, vast forests, huge mineral deposits, and large tracts of arable land. These natural resources are important for the country’s economy, with copper and cobalt being the country’s main exports. While mining brings into the country much needed foreign exchange, the extraction of the minerals also results in environmental damage, including land degradation, deforestation, water and air pollution, and solid waste. In addition to mining, other important threats to Zambia’s environment are agriculture, urbanization and climate change.
The Zambia Atlas of Our Changing Environment aims to visually illustrate environmental changes in the country over recent years, ranging from changes arising from the growing mining sector to changes brought about by agricultural expansion and growing settlements. By visually linking causes with the environmental changes, the atlas is expected to not only provide compelling evidence on the changing environment, but also to call for science-based solutions.
As Zambia aspires to become a prosperous middle-income country through its Vision 2030, it is important that the environment is safeguarded from degradation. Such protection from land degradation will not only ensure sustainable development, but also facilitate green growth and the attainment of socio-economic goals, including those related to health, education, sanitation and poverty reduction. Evidence-based assessments such as the Zambia Atlas of Our Changing Environment are importanttools for decision-and policy-making.
Through its Africa Programme, GRID-Arendal, in partnership with the Zambia Environmental Management Agency, UNEP, GRID-Sioux Falls and the US Geological Survey, is pleased to have significantly played a part in the preparation the Zambia Atlas of Our Changing Environment. The process did not only entail raising financial resources, but also developing content and training. The acquired skills, especially in the collection, processing and presentation of satellite imagery, and in maps and graphics, will not only benefit Zambia but also the rest of Africa, given the growing demand for atlases in the region.
The spirit of partnership demonstrated by GRID-Arendal, the Zambia Environmental Management Agency, UNEP, GRID-Sioux Falls and the US Geological Survey in producing this atlas is greatly applauded. Through the partnership it was possible to leverage on each other’s capacities, including technical competency, financial resources, political legitimacy, and technology. It is GRID-Arendal’s wish that the publication of this atlas is not seen as an end, but as the beginning of an important process of reaching out to policy-makers, the media, academia and other important stakeholders. With an elaborate outreach process, it is possible, as we have experienced with other atlases, to generate some measurable outcomes on policies and programmes that will contribute towards the future we want.