serve as a baseline for monitoring the status of Zambiafs evergreen forest environment in
the next century. But if this monitoring is to be effective, accurate recording of capture
localities is important. Many of the rarer species have been found in only one or two
isolated places. With accurate locality recording, detailed studies at local level then
Papers in the scientific press by authors with little knowledge of the rainforest
ecology have suggested that, because aerial and satellite imaging shows substantial tree
cover, even evergreen tree cover, in areas of Africa which are regarded as deforested, the
problem has been exaggerated. However, these arguments ignore the species composition of
the apparently regenerated tree cover, much of which may represent cultivated tree species
(e.g. mangoes), or mere re-colonisation by the most competitive of local species. Once an
area of rainforest has been laid bare, its immense ecological complexity will not
regenerate within historical time.
With the gradual entry of Zambia into the global economy, and increased efficiency of
its economic activities, a modern approach to habitat conservation could now be fostered
among the current generation. Rural projects could include a conservation component, in
which concerned staff might be encouraged to promote an interest in conservation. For
instance, a proposed coffee project in the Ikelenge farming block, sited in the Kalene
Hill area, might utilise its professional entomologist to monitor the status, and
encourage the preservation, of its specialised habitats.
But specialised habitats are not our only conservation problem. A 1995 report concluded
that, currently, 5% of deforested land in Zambia was attributable to charcoal burning, 32%
to permanent agriculture, and 63% to shifting cultivation (chitemene). Shifting
cultivation may ultimately result in the elimination of all trees, and the removal of so
many soil nutrients that the land can only support tough, shoulder-high Hyparrhenia
grasses, with an impoverished herb flora and a very limited butterfly fauna.
In times past, when rural populations were very small, and local people were happy
merely to survive, such farming systems could be considered viable and sustainable. In the
next century, with burgeoning populations and demands not only for food and clothing, but
also for videos, TV sets and cars, such systems will represent institutionalised poverty
and become seriously unsustainable.
These criticisms apply not only to shifting cultivation, but also to small farming
systems generally. Many environmentalists do not appreciate the volume of chemical
elements which humans remove from the soil when growing food. The disastrous consequences
for the soils of Africa have been graphically documented in a major report for FAO by a
large body of Dutch scientists (Stoorvogel & Smaling, 1990).
A tonne of cereal provides kilocalories and protein for, at most, four people for a
year. Yet this tonne removes from the soil, on average for all cereals, 28 kilos of
nitrogen (or 80 kilos of ammonium nitrate), 15 kilos of phosphorus pentoxide, and 39 kilos
of potassium oxide (Stoorvogel & Smaling, p. 24). Clearly any system, which fails to
provide for the replacement of these chemicals, and to a lesser extent of the other twelve
nutrients required for plant growth, is doomed to disaster.
Yet farms below a critical size have utmost difficulty in finding working capital for
the replacement of their soil nutrients. Moreover, many environmentalists, in
counter-productive mode, persist in regarding secondary problems arising from the use of
nitrate, as reasons for declaring it a pollutant, and discouraging its use in Africa.
With proper replacement of soil nutrients, the human population could be fed from a
much smaller area of land, rendering unnecessary much of the current destructive
Clearly a re-think is needed within the environmental movement.