The Zambezi Region (until 2013 known as the Caprivi Region) is one of 14 regions of Namibia, located in the extreme north-east of the country. It takes its name from the Zambezi River that runs along its border. Katima Mulilo is the only town in the region. The Zambezi region is a sub-tropical area, with high temperatures and rainfall during the December-to-March rainy season, making it the wettest region of Namibia.
The terrain is mostly made up of swamps, floodplains, wetlands and woodland. In addition to the Zambezi River, the region also holds the Kwando and Chobe Rivers, which mark the border with Botswana.
Approximately, 91,000 people live in the Zambezi Region, making up about four percent of Namibia's population. Though official unemployment figures for the region are 28%, the majority of the population are subsistence farmers who make their living near the banks of the Zambezi, Kwando and Chobe Rivers.
The region experiences significant flooding during periods of high rainfall in central and southeastern Angola, where the Cubango, Cuito, and Kwando rivers flood — inundating floodplain areas in northern east Namibia along the Kavango River and in the Chobe River confluence. These floodplains are home to significant numbers of people that farm in the floodplain areas during dry seasons. They are vulnerable when the areas become flooded, and they and their livestock are forced onto higher ground already occupied by other communities — thus causing human-human conflicts. Wildlife that frequent these same areas are forced also to move off the flooded plains and compete for the limited dry land — damaging crops, killing livestock, and endangering people’s lives and livelihoods in increasing scenarios of human-wildlife conflict.
The Zambezi Region is home to 450 animal species, including elephants, making the area a popular game-watching spot. The wildlife is protected by several national parks, Nkasa-Lupala National Park (320 km2), and Mudumu National Park (390 km2). Animals travel freely across the unmarked border with Botswana, where the Chobe National Park lies. The region is also a prime bird-watching area, with almost 70 percent of bird species found in Namibia being recorded here.
Deciduous woodlands are dominated by trees such as wild seringa, copalwood and Zambezi teak. Apart from the 430 species of birds found here, animals likely to be seen are elephant, impala, roan antelope, sable antelope, kudu, zebra and buffalo. The region is home to small populations of wild dog, hyena, lion, cheetah, leopard, giraffe, sitatunga, red lechwe and ostrich while spotted neck otter, hippo and crocodile inhabit the waterways.
Most people in the Zambezi Region are rural subsistence farmers, living in small villages without reliable access to water and sanitation services or electricity, who depend almost entirely on rain-fed agriculture (mostly maize, sorghum, millet, pumpkin and beans).
The Bwabwata National Park (BNP) falls within both the Zambezi and Kavango East Regions. IRDNC only works in the section of Kavango East included in the BNP. The area was initially managed as a game park and then declared as a military zone by the South African Defense Force during Namibia’s struggle for independence.
In October 2007, the park was re-proclaimed as the BNP covering (6,100 km2 and including the entire 180km strip between the Kavango and Kwandu Rivers). It has been zoned to provide for a central multiple-use area where people live and core conservation areas. Although it is the only national park in Namibia with residents, some livelihood activities are restricted due to its status as a national park. Residents may use the land for cultivation and for harvesting natural resources, however, livestock activities are regulated.
Wilidlife in the BNP includes large concentrations of elephant, buffalo, roan and sable antelope, red lechwe, hippos and predators such as wild dog, lion, leopard, hyena and cheetah. The BNP is home to approximately 5,000 people, most of whom are Khwe San and Mbukushu.
Due to the limited economic activity permitted in the park, opportunities for people to live themselves out of poverty are few. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism and IRDNC are attempting to provide development opportunities based on the sustainable utilization of natural resources, trophy hunting and tourism.
The residents of the BNP are represented by a community-based organization, the Kyaramacan Association (KA), which aims to promote community development, particularly through he sustainable use of natural resources.