"Integrating Social and Natural Systems in Enhancing Environmental Sustainability, Mid Zambezi Valley"

Landuse management along transboundary rivers in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region is a challenge especially in remoter parts of riparian areas. The Middle Zambezi Valley is greatly influenced by how water is managed upstream and also downstream in the Cabora Bassa Dam. The poor in this area are the most vulnerable in society and this vulnerability is exacerbated by floods and droughts which have become more frequent in recent years (Murwira et al., 2005). All indications are these will become worse in future because of climate change (Solomon et al., 2007). The idea of this project is to investigate how these poor and vulnerable communities are impacted on by the temporal changes in the flow regimes of rivers and how these communities respond to the changes. This is essential for the development of appropriate coping mechanisms.

Main Research Question: How has the management of reservoirs upstream and downstream of the Middle Zambezi Basin affected the environment and livelihoods of riparian communities?
Main Hypothesis: The construction and management of reservoirs upstream and downstream of the Middle Zambezi area has negatively affected the environment and livelihoods in the area.
Conceptual Approach of the Proposed Project: This research project is based on five linked MSc studies and complements the ongoing UPaRF-funded Power2Flow project (Hydropower-to-environment water transfers in the Zambezi basin: balancing ecosystem health with hydropower generation in hydropower-dominated basins) in the area. The research follows the concept of integrated water and natural resources management. The research looks at reservoir operations upstream and downstream of the area and its seasonal impacts on landuse and livelihoods in the area. From hydrology it looks at how the environment is impacted and how the communities are impacted or are impacting on the environment. It then looks at how communities should be organized in a manner that best responds and safeguards the environment. Climate change adaptation is a crosscutting issue in this project.