- Water transport in Zambia
Water transport, and the many navigable inland waterways, in
Zambiahas a long tradition of practical use in Zambiaexcept in parts of the south. Since draught animals such as oxenwere not heavily used, water transport was usually the only alternative to going on foot until the 19th Century. The history and current importance of Zambian waterways, as well as the types of indigenous boatsused, provide information on this important aspect of Zambian economy.
Indigenous boats and traditional use of waterways
The techniques of making temporary boats or
raftsby weaving together bundles of buoyant reeds were known to African people living near the many rivers, lakes, lagoons and swamps of what is now Zambia. [http://www.lowdown.co.zm/2006/2006-04/nalikwanda.htm Yuyi K Libakeni: “The Nalikwanda”, on "The Lowdown" website] accessed 24 February 2007.] The coming of the Iron Ageintroduced tools such as the adzewhich facilitates the construction of dugout canoes, especially from African Teak(‘mulombwa’ in Chibemba, ‘mulombe’ in Chilozi, ‘mukwa’ in Chishona) which has a long life even when constantly immersed. The dugout then took over as the principal means of fishing and travel by boat, whether paddled in deeper water, or punted in shallow water like makoros in neighbouring Botswana.
David Livingstone, the first European to see Lake Bangweuluarrived on the western shore of that lake in 1868, he was conveyed across it efficiently in a dugout canoe 45 feet long and 4 feet wide (about 14 m by 1.2 m), paddled by six men. The people of the lake and its wetlands, which cover a completely flat area of more than 10,000 km² in flood, have the ability to navigate unaided across open water or through mazes of swamp channels despite having no landmarks to guide them most of the time.David Livingstone & Horace Waller (Ed): "The Last Journals of David Livingstone in Central Africa from 1865 to his Death (Two Volumes). "John Murray, 1874.]
There is an account of the Shila people in the Luapula swamps in the 19th Century hunting hippos with great skill by throwing
harpoonsat them from dugout canoes, despite being in great danger from these huge aggressive animals’ ability to overturn a canoe and virtually bite its paddlers in half, and they are responsible for many human deaths in Zambia. [ [http://NRJ/V2N5/V2N5.htm (On www.nrzam.org.uk website accessed 24 February 2007)] William Lammond: “The Luapula Valley”, in "The Northern Rhodesia Journal", Vol 2 No 5 pp 50−55(1954)]
Several dugout canoes may be lashed together and a timber platform built over them to carry heavy loads, and many early pontoon ferries were made in this way, such as the first ferry over the
Luangwa Riverin 1929, which could carry a 1.5 ton truck. Paddled by a dozen men, the crossing used to take four to six hours, not because of the great width of the river but the need to go a long way upstream before the crossing, when the current would sweep the pontoon several kilometres downstream. [http://NRJ/V2N5/V2N5.htm (On www.nrzam.org.uk website accessed 24 February 2007)] H. C. N. Ridley: “Early History of Road Transport in Northern Rhodesia”, The Northern Rhodesia Journal, Vol 2 No 5 (1954)]
There are both permanent and seasonal fishing communities to which the only access is by boat or canoe, such as in Bangweulu and Mweru Wantipa in particular, but also along many rivers and lake shores. To such communities canoes and boats are a way of life. A colonial administrator in the 1920s saw a dugout canoe crossing Lake Tanganyika (35 km wide) which is large enough to have waves of around 1 m. Though such a feat was commonplace, he was astonished to discover that the three paddlers were all blind, and the boat was being steered by a small child to the store at
Mpulunguso they could buy supplies. [ [http://NRJ/V2N5/V2N5.htm (On www.nrzam.org.uk website accessed 24 February 2007)] — (No author): “Strange Encounter”, in "The Northern Rhodesia Journal", Vol 2 No 5 p55 (1954)]
Lozi timber plank boats
Before the coming of the Europeans from 1860 onwards, the
Lozi peopleof Barotselandwere building "Nalikwanda" royal barges made from teak planks fixed with iron nails (extensive Rhodesian Teakforests grew in the east of Barotseland). As seen in the Kuombokaceremony these reached huge sizes, requiring a hundred paddlers or more. Although there has been speculation that the Lozi learnt this method of boat building from Arabor Portuguese traders, the Lozi did not allow such traders to enter their territory, and the traders certainly did not haul boats overland to central Africa with them. There is no evidence to suppose that the Lozi plank boat is anything other than an indigenous technology.
Water transport in the colonial era
For about three decades after the start of the colonial era as North-Western and
North-Eastern Rhodesia, there was no road transport in the territory, except by ox-wagon. Even when the first railway reached the Copperbeltin 1910, there was no mechanised road transport from that single line into the surrounding areas or the rest of the country. Water transport was used by colonial officials, businesses, and the few settlers, and some Africans made their living hiring out their canoes and labour to them.
Lake Tanganyika: the port of Mpulunguwas one of the main entry points to the north of the territory until World War I, and even after remained a significant route with services by the MV Liembaconnecting to the Kigoma- Dar es Salaamrailway.
# Lake Bangweulu and Bangweulu swamps: from
Samfyaand Nsomboto all parts of the system.
Lake Mweru: Nchelenge- Kashikishito Kilwa Island, Chiengiand Pweto.
River and swamp channel transport
Zambezi River: Katombora Rapids to Seshekeand Katima Mulilo, just above which is a series of rapids over a distance of 20 km, and then the Ngonye Falls 75 km further on at Sioma. Depending on the water level, boats could be paddled or pulled through or carried around the rapids, and at Sioma, Chief Yeta had a team of 40 oxen available to pull barges 5 km over land around the Ngonye Falls. [ [http://www.nrzam.org.uk/NRJ/V1N2/V1N2.htm (On www.nrzam.org.uk website accessed 26 February)] E. C. Mills: "Overlanding Cattle from Barotse to Angola", "The Northern Rhodesia Journal", Vol 1 No 2, pp 53-63 (1950)]
Upper Zambezibetween Ngonye Fallsand the Nyamboma Rapids, and especially Monguto Kalabo.
Kasenga(in DR Congo) and Kashiba, across from each other on the Luapula River, to Lake Mweru. From the 1930s to the 1950s most of the commercial fishing on the lake was run by Greek fishermen operating from Kasenga. The Belgian Congogovernment also operated a sternwheeler paddle steamer, the "Charles Lemaire", on the Luapula and Lake Mweru. [ [http://www.nrzam.org.uk "The Northern Rhodesia Journal" online] , Vol 2 No 3 (1954) pp 86-7. Anderson, J: “Kilwa Island and the Luapula”. Accessed 26 February 2007.]
Bangweulu Swamps: The hundreds of channels are often narrowed by shifting vegetation and not suitable for motorboats except those with outboard motors. Efforts have been made over the years to cut channels but they eventually become silted or overgrown with papyrus again. The main routes:::* Kapalalaon the Luapula Riverto Chambeshion the Chambeshi River— this was the main route between the Copperbeltand the Northern Province until 1930. During the later stages of World War I, a fleet of 900 boats (mainly dugout canoes) ferried supplies over this route for British forces near Abercorn.::* Kapalalato Lake Bangweulu and Samfya/Nsombo.::*Chambeshi to Nsombo.
Other waterways, local use
Kafue River, though navigable between the town of Kafueand the Copperbelt was not used for that route because its meandering course which takes it far to the west makes the route three times longer than the straight line distance, and it does not pass close to any areas with much population.
* Similarly the
Luangwa Riverdoes not constitute a major waterway since it does not pass through any well-populated areas, and becomes very shallow in the dry season.
Dongwe Riverand Kabompo Riverin the west
Lungwebungu Riverin the west
* Luena-Luongo in the north
Kalungwishi Riverthe north
Lake Mweru Wantipain the north
Lukanga Swampin the centre
Boat operations in the present day
There is a need to develop inland waterways in Zambia but it is hampered by a lack of management know-how in the sector and a lack of port facilities. [ [http://www.ecfa.or.jp/japanese/act-pf/H17/renkei/zambia/Zambia-Chapter%204-A.pdf Engineering and Consulting Firms Association of Japan website] : “Report on Zambia: Sectorial Development Strategies”, p 4-A-8 (2003). Accessed 24 February 2007.] Development of the road network has reduced the demand for commercial boat services where road services compete. No major urban centres have developed on any waterways and so boat transport is not used for any urban or inter-urban travel. The only centres which can be considered to have commercial boat services are, in rough order of size:
* Mpulungu, Lake Tanganyika , serving the Zambian shore and islands up to Nsumbu and Ndole Bay, with international services to
Tanzania, DR Congoand Burundi.
* Samfya, Lake Bangweulu
* Nchelenge-Kashikishi, Lake Mweru (with international connections to DR Congo at Kilwa and Kasenga).
* Mongu, Zambezi River, especially to
Boat operators serving the tourist trade are found in: [ [http://www.zambiatourism.com Zambia National tourist Board website] accessed 24 February 2007]
Mpulunguon Lake Tanganyika
Nsumbu National Parkat Kasaba Bayon Lake Tanganyika
South Luangwa National Parkon the Luangwa River
Kafue National Parkon the Kafue River and the lake formed by the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam
Monguon the Zambezi
Livingstoneon the Zambezi
Siavongaand Sinazongweon Lake Kariba
Lower Zambezi National Parkon the ZambeziIn addition to these there are a number of tour companies and camps set up for fishing and adventure tours, especially on the upper Zambezi, mostly catering for international tourists at high prices.
Boat use for non-commercial and subsistence use
Use of dugout canoes has declined somewhat except in more remote locations, due to a relative shortage of good African Teak trees, and competition from timber plank, aluminium and glass-fibre boats. The use of
outboard motorsremains relatively low due to the high cost of fuel and lack of maintenance services.
General references and further reading
* Terracarta: "Zambia, 2nd edition", International Travel Maps, Vancouver, Canada, 2000.
* Camerapix: "Spectrum Guide to Zambia", Camerapix International Publishing, Nairobi, 1996.
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