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"Supporting learning about the land and peoples of the Upper Zambezi Valley"

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Paddling across the flooded plain during the Kuomboka
Welcome to

updated bibliography and geography sections

Urban scene - Mongu, capital and chief town of Western Province, Zambia

Welcome to or 'b'net' for short! B'net is dedicated to an understanding of the rich social history and geography of the Upper Zambezi River Valley. B'net attempts to examine how the past can explain the present and enable us to envision and plan for the future in this vibrant region.

The name Barotseland, tends to conjure up political tensions in the modern era but its origin lies in the name Lozi (or Lotsi) given to the Luyi peoples who were found based in the Bulozi floodplain in the heart of the Upper Zambezi Valley by an invasion force under the command of a Sotho elite called the Makololo. Ls and Rs are somewhat conflated in the Sotho language hence Barotseland = Land of the Ba (plural) Lozi >> Lotsi >> Rotsi/e (the s being interchageable with a z). Apart from the Makololo interregnum which lasted approximately 34 years from around 1830 to 1864, the Luyi/Lozi peoples came to dominate the floodplain and surrounding areas from earliest recorded time to the present although the ancestors of the Luyi almost certainly migrated in steps from the Katanga region of what is now the southern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

During the formal colonial era, Barotseland, while retaining much of its independence, was administered by the British South Africa Company (BSAC) of Cecil Rhodes before becoming a British protectorate known as Barotziland-North-Western Rhodesia, which amalgamated with North East Rhodesia to form the protectorate of Northern Rhodesia. In 1953, Northern Rhodesia joined with Nyasaland (current Malawi) and Southern Rhodesia to form the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. After Zambian independence in November 1964, when Barotseland became enjoined Northern Rhodesia in the new Republic of Zambia via an agreement called the Barotseland Agreement 1964. In the newly independent Zambia, Barotseland was known briefly as Barotse Province and, from 1968, as Western Province, Zambia.

Some other areas in the Upper Zambezi Valley have come under Lozi influence from time to time and these include Caprivi (now part of Namibia), Balovale (now called Zambezi, part of North-Western Province, Zambia) and Mbundaland (in modern-day Cuando Cubango and Moxico provinces, SE Angola adjoining western Zambia). The Upper Zambezi Valley is predominantly rural; the towns that exist are important nodal points for transport but are not significant centres of wealth offering serices to their #hinterlands In general, the region currently experiences comparatively low levels of socio-economic development in the region, although this was by no means the case in the past. Uneven development is so often a cause of human insecurity. (B'net) was, (from 2005-2010), in an earlier incarnation as a community-based organisation called headquartered in Mongu, principally engaged in historical research and heritage valorisation, participative action research and sustainable development projects as well as supporting more global development work taking place in the region. Today, while we do not rule out the possibility of once again supporting practical development work, B'net is predominantly an online knowledge sharing platform offering data, information and analysis on the physical and social environment of the Upper Zambezi Valley. We aim to offer reasoned explanations of the past and present to better enable governments, administrators, NGOs and development analysts as well as traditional authorities to plan for a more secure and prosperous future for the region. A principal objective of this work then, is to support sustainable development that seeks to uplift the lives and livelihoods of people in the region whilst caring for the unique social ecological system. The following is a list of our principal current work themes:

  • History - social history of the region, currently focusing mainly on Barotseland
  • Geography - A biophysical and political presentation of the region
  • Language - an expose of local languages, currently focusing on Silozi
  • Bibliography - extensive catalogues of publications and work across the disciplines on the Upper Zambezi Valley.

Whilst the website will, in the interests of expediency and practicality, articulate itself predominantly in English, attention will be paid increasingly to local vernaculars. Most of the peoples who live in the region speak Silozi, formerly known as Sikololo, as their main language, although Mbunda, Chiikuhani (Subiya), Chilubale (Lovale) and Nkoya are also widely spoken in Mbundaland, Caprivi, Balovale and Mankoya respectively.

Whether you are a Lozi yourself, have worked, studied or lived in the region or are just interested in learning or studying more about this fascinating land, its peoples, flora and fauna, we thank you for your interest and look forward to welcoming you back regularly to B'net and indeed to the Upper Zambezi Valley itself, situated in the heart of southern central Africa.

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Copyright: 2021