Mwale Chishaleshale Mumba on protecting vital ecosystems

Zebras standing among trees

Kitwe, Zambia

Mwale Chishaleshale Mumba, who is pursuing her PhD in forest science at the University of Pretoria, has dedicated more than 15 years to conserving her country’s at-risk woodlands. Her experience spans work with WWF-Zambia, the Centre for International Forestry Research, and the Miombo Network, which promotes sustainable forest management in southern Africa. In 2021, she received a WWF Russell E. Train Fellowship, which will support her exploration of carbon trading as one potential solution to forest degradation.

What inspires your work?

Witnessing the rate at which we are losing our forests has motivated me to focus my research efforts on how we can turn things around—and use woodland ecosystems to mitigate climate change, with the local community involved.

Why is forest conservation critical in Zambia?

Apart from providing ecological services like air purification and wildlife habitat, forests are a source of livelihood for our people, especially in rural and peri-urban areas. Communities source firewood and non-wood forest products, such as mushrooms and honey, and obtain wood for constructing their houses. Their lives are centered on forests. The good thing is, most local people realize the benefits of the forests, so as ecologists we need to engage communities in sustainable management of these forests.


Droughts, power cuts, and increased urbanization have affected Zambia’s energy sector in recent years, fueling a boom in charcoal production that’s contributing to widespread deforestation.

How can carbon trading help?

One of Zambia’s main forest degradation activities, charcoal production, stems from communities needing to earn income. That’s why carbon trading, which compensates local communities for conserving forests, has a lot of potential. Basically, a carbon credit value is assigned based on how much carbon dioxide a forest can absorb and store. Companies, governments, or individuals [seeking to] offset their emissions can purchase these carbon credits; they pay the community living in a forested area—and the nation at large—under the condition that the forest is conserved.

What goals do you have for your work in Zambia?

I want to carry the sustainable forest management and forest conservation agenda forward in my country and region. I want to lobby and inform the government to push and integrate forest management mechanisms that promote conservation. Seeing measures such as carbon trading being taken up as forest management strategies is a great achievement for me.

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