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Geography of Barotseland

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Political Geography

Most of the original Lozi arena of influence lies in present-day Zambia, specifically the Western Province. The history of human settlement goes back to the Iron Age and today, Western Province is one the most densely populated regions of rural Zambia.  However, this population density varies widely today as indeed it has over the centuries although for different reasons. As will be seen on the map in Figure 1 below (click on the map for larger image), much of present-day settlement is clustered on the ridge that forms the eastern extremity of the Bulozi floodplain which is also the location for the largest town and provincial capital, Mongu.


Figure 1: Land use map of Barotseland from 1954
Click on image to enlarge

Mongu also lies at the end of the only road connecting the province with the Zambian capital Lusaka, and one of the very few that is tarred, along which most of the imported supplies for Western Province flow in and most goods produced (nearly all agricultural), flow out. This is not to discount the goods which permeate the region from Namibia via the border post at Katima Mulilo, but this relies on a road between Senanga and the Namibian border that is not tarred and is impassable for large portions of the year. Throughput of goodsand trade to and from Angola which forms a substantial part of the Zambian border to the west and north of Western Province is ngligible. Indeed the only commodity which moves with any regularity appears to be refugees from Shangombo to the large UNHCR camp at Namgweshi. However, this situation may change during the twenty-first century if the peace treaty that ended the civil war in Angola in April 2002 holds out.

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