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Newly constructed Barotse 'sleigh'

Development in Western Zambia

Packing mud into walls of new house - near Lake Makapaela - 2002

Development has been an elusive concept over the years for Zambia's Western Province, the former Protectorate of Barotseland. For some seventy years during the colonial era, Great Britain oversaw the underdevelopment of Barotseland which became used, first by the British South Africa Company of Cecil Rhodes and secondly by commercial labour recruitment agencies from the South as a pool of migrant labour for the mines of South Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) but received no modernisation in return. Indeed Britain stands accused by historians of developing Barotseland during the colonial period into a 'living museum' propping up yet sucking the lifeblood out of the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) as a legitimate leadership structure in the lives of the Lozi peoples in the process. The period since independence in 1965 has served Barotseland no better. Development seems to have passed Western Province by in favour of the Copper Belt, Lusaka and the 'Line of Rail', partly due to politics and partly as a result of the perception that Western Province is an isolated country region with little to offer the rest of the country. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

What is required today is capacity building amongst the representative organisations of the Lozi nation that have local knowledge and understand the true aspirations of local people, genuine development that puts the people first. This is not to say that business is not welcome, Lozis too, want to learn about modern business techniques and develop commercial skills and acumen to put to good use in their region. Too often in the past, entrepreneurs and organisations have come to the province apparently in the interests of development but in reality have come only to make fast money and a faster exit. Some well-meaning development projects have been enacted only for the organisation to later depart without leaving behind the tools or the skills to continue or maintain the project. Barotseland needs sustainable development and the BRE stands ready to welcome all genuine iniatives, which should be presented to and be approved by the Government of the Republic of Zambia and the Barotse Royal Establishment at Limulunga.

Links to on-line documents and issues connected with development in Barotseland

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