The Western Province
, formerly known as the Barotseland
, is in the western part of Zambia
. Its provincial headquarters is Mongu
Western Province is divided into 7 districts:
The geography of the province is dominated by the Barotse Floodplain
of the Zambezi
river, extending from the confluence of the Zambezi with the Lungwebungu
and Kabompo Rivers
at the northern border of the province, to a point below Senanga
and above the Ngonye Falls
in the south. This floodplain is inundated from December to June, and is fed by other rivers with their own floodplains, and serves as a vast reservoir storing the waters of the Zambezi
. The seasonal flooding is very important to agriculture in the province, providing natural irrigation for the grasslands on which huge herds of cattle depend, and bringing water to the settlements along the edges of the plain. Away from the Zambezi
and its tributaries, much of the landscape is a gently undulating series of fossil sand dunes from a previous extension of the Kalahari
Desert, with numerous lagoons, pans
and seasonal swamps in hollows between the dunes. Dry grassland plains, teak forest, miombo woodlands and patches of evergreen Cryptosepalum forest cover the land.
Mongu is not well supplied with paved roads. The main one and the chief access for the province is the 610-kilometre Lusaka
-Mongu road or Great West Road
, which in the past has been poorly maintained but has recently been resurfaced.
There is an ambitious regional plan to provide the first ever major link between the road networks of Zambia and Angola via a Barotse Floodplain causeway from Mongu to Kalabo with a bridge over the Zambezi, replacing the current dry-season ferry at Sandaula. A paved highway would then be built north-west to the Angolan border continuing to Lumbala N'guimbo and Cuito Cuanavale. Although the causeway and bridge from Mongu to Kalabo was originally intended for completion in 2006, construction has proved more difficult than anticipated and large sections were washed away in floods in 2003/4, resulting in funding shortfalls. In November 2007 unpaved earth causeways were in place from Mongu to beyond Lealui and Sandaula to Kalabo, but bridge construction had not commenced.
The paved road from Mongu to Senanga is in poor condition and requires rehabilitation. The only other paved road, Livingstone in Southern Province to Sesheke and the Katima Mulilo Bridge is in good condition as a result of being upgraded to link to the Transcaprivi Highway.
The other roads in the province vary from a few good dry-season gravel roads such as Kaoma to Lukulu, to sandy or muddy tracks passable only by trucks and four-wheel drive vehicles.
The main ethnic group in the province are the Lozi
, traditionally cattle-keepers related to the Matabele
, with a well-established system of traditional rulers headed by the Litunga
. The seasonal migrations of the Litunga and his court from the dry-season capital of Lealui
, on the Zambezi flood-plain, to Limulunga
, is an important cultural and now tourist event called the Kuomboka
Cattle are the mainstay of the traditional economy, and are sold in the population centres further east when money is required for cash goods or school or medical expenses. Crops are grown on the floodplains and along the margin of the flood plain, in particular maize, rice, millet and vegetablesparticularly .
Logging for Zambian Teak
, which grows wild in the south of the province, was important, and resulted in the construction of the longest private railway in southern Africa from Livingstone
, but this industry has declined due to the very slow rates of re-growth and the reduced demand for railway sleepers. There is no mining within the province, although there have been extensive exploration campaigns for diamonds and petroleum.
The main tourist attractions are water sports and fishing on the Zambezi river, and the annual Kuomboka ceremony.
National Parks and wildlife areas
- For more detail see Western Province in the Wildlife of Zambia