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WWF Zambia Promotes Conservation Agriculture

The Silowana complex is an arid part of Zambia, whose effects of climate change have had implications on people and wildlife, especially because the area is drought prone. Without other economic opportunities, agriculture plays a central role in securing livelihoods of the local population.

The majority of smallholders use conventional farming methods for shifting crops. Due to low soil fertility, fields can only be used for a maximum of 3 years. Thereafter, forested areas are cleared for new fields, and as a result, farmers continue to invade wildlife habitats, leading to human-wildlife conflicts and crop damage. 

For this reason, WWF Zambia in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) and the Department of Agriculture (DoA) are promoting conservation agricultural technologies which are based on soil conservation using minimum tillage (use of potholes and ripping), use of organic manures (kraal manures) and retention of crop residues (mulch for soil moisture conservation and use of adaptable crop varieties. The initiatives are being implemented through a system of local extension agents employed by the Mufulani and  Sesheke West  Community Resource Boards to increase farmer capacity to adapt to climate change impacts.

© WWF Zambia
Conservation Agriculture field, Silowana Complex

The conservation Agriculture technology also entails an increased intensification and permanency of cropping fields of the farming system which results in people concentrating their fields near homesteads and avoid cultivating in wildlife corridors and other forested habitats which are left for use by wildlife. Further capacity has been built in post-harvest loss management through appropriate storage technologies, and a seed production program for locally adapted seed to provide access to affordable improved seeds that are adapted to local conditions and are high yielding. 

In the midst of the severe drought experienced during the  2018/19, led to widespread crop failures among farmers resulted in reduced the food security of the country, although the farmers that planted early and had adopted conservation agriculture were able to harvest reasonable yields. Farmers have to adopt farming practices that will not harm nature or negatively affect climate and one of these farming practices is conservation agriculture. 
In order to reduce the risk of risk due to reliance on rain fed agriculture only, WWF Zambia and partners, have initiated small scale drip irrigation schemes among 3 communities within the Silowana complex working mainly with women groups. The focus on women for this adaptation initiative is because they are important food producers and providers, although they have limited access to and control of resources. It is estimated that more than 100 million people could be lifted out of poverty if women had the same access to and control of resources as men. Previously, results have shown that as the number of farmers adopting conservation smart agriculture is increased, there has been a reduction in the cultivation and encroachment in wildlife corridors. 

Over the years, WWF has seen positive outcomes on the practices and lives of its farmer-beneficiaries in its target communities within the Silowana complex.  The immediate benefits of conservation agriculture over traditional farming are increased yields which has encouraged farmers. Most farmers are harvesting more than double the usual harvest. From the extra earnings farmers get, the money is used to pay for children’s school fees, and purchase livestock, food and other household items. Some farmers have even built iron roofed houses, which are stronger than grass thatched houses.