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While some communities in Central Province of Zambia are resorting to cutting down trees as an alternative source of energy, a group of young farmers in Serenje District has vowed to keep trees around river streams blossoming.
This is because forests have been playing a critical role in the preservation of ground water.
The young farmers belong to a youth driven project which is being implemented by WWF Zambia and its Gaia Education and the Young Emerging Farmers Initiative.
For some time now, lack of uninterrupted access to water and modern irrigation infrastructure have been among the main factors hindering Africa’s food security.
But motivated by the desire to put to good use the conservation farming skills they have acquired with the assistance of WWF Zambia, the youth have not gave into the challenges and have dug a furrow stretching over a distance of about two kilometers, driving fresh water from upstream right into their flourishing gardens.
I spoke with one of them, and here is what they said:
“We did not want to accept the challenge of lack of water. First of all, we decided to commit to preserving the trees around the stream. Then upon realizing that our stream was flowing year-round, we agreed as a group to dig this furrow all the way into the fields. And here we are now. Looking at how valuable this water is to us, we have vowed to keep trees in this area flourishing, so that we continue having enough water to support our vegetables and animals,” explained Emma Kalunga, a visibly motivated young farmer, who is only 20 years old.
Travelling through a thicket of various tree species, the water also provides much-needed life-support not only to the vegetables the youth grow but also to a range of bird species which dwell in the trees above.
Now what is even more interesting to note is that after it has supported the vegetables in the gardens, the water is not wasted. The water flows into a pond, where it collects. And in an event that the furrow does not hold enough water, the youth then rely on the water, which would have collected in the pond.
The fact that the youth reserve the water after it has flowed past the gardens reduces the pressure on the stream. And in so doing, this directly speaks to WWF Zambia’s desire to also protect freshwater habitats and sustain freshwater ecosystems.
To an ordinary visitor, this is simply ordinary water. But to this group of young conservation farmers, this water is the lifeblood of their animals, wild and domestic birds, their vegetables and ultimately the pivot of the food security of their surrounding communities and the district at large.