On 19 October 2021, the Mapepala and Nabowa Community Forest Management Groups (CFMG), together with Kasanka Trust Limited, which co-manages the operations of the Kasanka National Park in Chitambo District with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, initiated legal proceedings in the Lusaka High Court against two companies – Lake Agro Industries and Gulf Adventure Limited for illegally conducting large-commercial agriculture and related activities within the Kafinda Game Management Area (KGMA) and the Mapepala and Nabowa Community Forest (MNCF) which are one of the protected areas in Zambia. The said activities include but not limited to:
- The destruction of the forests (including the indiscriminate cutting down of trees);
- The restriction of the community from accessing water from the Loumbwa River;
- The abstraction of water from the Loumbwa River exceeding amounts stated in the water permit granted
- The clearing of vegetation;
- The cultivation of land;
- The erecting of wire fences and enclosing parts of the MNCF;
- Further construction works and any other development activities in and around the National Park and the KGMA.
These commercial agricultural activities have to date resulted in massive environmental degradation with a long-term adverse effect on the area’s ecosystem and, significantly, on the livelihoods of the indigenous Mapepala and Nabowa communities whose ancestors occupied the land later gazetted as the Kasanka National Park and who depend on the Loumbwa River and other natural resources within the Kasanka National Park for survival.
Furthermore, these commercial agricultural activities also pose a significant threat to the forest resources within the protected KGMA and MNCF which provide food for a seasonal colony of about ten million straw-coloured fruit bats that the Kasanka National Park hosts annually, arguably the most extensively known mammal concentration in the world, which as pollinators and seed dispersers play a critical role in the management of the ecosystem, including helping with forest regeneration.
In the High Court
On 25 January 2022, the High Court of Zambia granted an interim injunction retraining Lake Agro Industries and Gulf Adventure Limited from further deforestation and development activities within the Kafinda Game Management Area. The Court correctly stated that an injunction in these circumstances would protect the environment from any further damage, which cannot be atoned for by damages. The interim injunction was perfected on 1 February 2022.
In the Court of Appeal
On 1 February 2022, Lake Agro Industries and Gulf Adventures Limited appealed against the entire ruling of the High Court. In October 2022, the defendant withdrew the application.
Back in the High Court
On 14 November 2022, a fresh contempt of Court application was filed and argued on 7 March 2023. The ruling was delivered on 22 March 2023, granting leave to commence contempt proceedings.