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Building resilience among rural farmers in Zambia

Small-scale farmers in the rural areas of Zambia face different obstacles to participate fully in the country’s agriculture growth. Interventions are needed to strengthen productivity of small-scale farmers as this would be a useful step towards sustenance of Zambia’s agriculture production and supporting efforts directed at poverty alleviation.

DAPP Zambia, a member of Humana People to People, is currently operating a rural small scale farmers program in Pemba district, Southern province of Zambia. The program response focuses on improving the farmers’ resilience regarding effects of climate change, improving livelihood and generation of income for the actively involved small scale farmers. It is expected to contribute, in the long term, to building the resilience of the most vulnerable rural populations in the region.

The project is part of the project Rural Resilience Initiative which was launched in 2012 in Ethiopia and Senegal. The partners decided to use the Farmer’s Clubs model in Zambia. DAPP Zambia started the initiative with 500 farmers in April 2015 and scaled up to 2,800 farmers in 2016. The Farmers’ Clubs Pemba project will continue with the same number of farmers in 2017.

A brief information about Zambia

The country has a population of about 16 million people, of which 65 percent live in rural areas. Fertility rates remain at an average of 5.3 children per woman very high in Zambia. Child employment in agriculture (age 7-14) constitutes 95.3 percent for females and 96.5 percent for males.

The country’s life expectancy is estimated to be at 41.7 years, extremely low. Life expectancy has been decreasing in Zambia for most of the last three decades, partly due to a high HIV and AIDS prevalence rate, which currently stands at about 17 percent.

Zambia’s rural economy, growth in the agricultural sector is one avenue through which poverty reduction can be achieved. However, despite widespread recognition of the strong connection between agricultural development and poverty reduction, there is continuing under-provision of public investments for over a decade and small scale farmers have continued to struggle under poverty for a very long period.

Zambia and climate change

In Zambia, climate change is already affecting most of the rural poor. Zambia’s average annual temperature has increased by 1.3°C from 1960 to 2006. Warming has been especially noticeable during the winter months. According to Zambia’s Meteorological Department, the 2014 unusually high temperatures ranging from 30°C to 38°C across the country attest to the increasing temperatures.

Zambia’s annual rainfall decreased by an average rate of 1.9 millimeters per month per decade since 1960, primarily due to decreases in rainfall from December to February. Many farmers in the eastern and southern provinces have witnessed a shorter growing season each year, which has forced them to adopt adaptation measures, such as regenerative agriculture. However, many others lack adequate support to fully adapt to these changes.

Further the fact that much of Zambia’s farming remains subsistence-style, relying on seasonal rains complicates the sustainability of relying on traditional farming methods. New efforts are needed which give more focus on increasing yields, conserving soil and water as well as supporting farmers with insurance services.

DAPP Zambia response to the challenges

DAPP Zambia is creating hope among the more than 2.800 farmers in Pemba district. Farmers’ Clubs Pemba is actively engaging farmers to improve crop production through diversification and soil management, improve financial literacy among farmer’s clubs members including linking farmers to micro finance, starting of saving clubs, marketing of crops, and linking the farmers to insurance services against crop failure.

The Rural Resilience Initiative strategy, the mechanism funding Farmers’ Clubs Pemba, is responding to climate change and other factors strengthening food security. The way is to empower the small scale farmer by offering the farmer access to an organized farming Club Life including extension training sessions, organizing model farming demo-plots, field visits, low cost technical solutions, technical assistance, exchange of collectively gained experiences, links to micro finance and markets.

The yields of farmers in Pemba are low and the increasing frequency of climatic shocks is overwhelming beyond their coping capacities. Therefore, the Rural Resilience Initiative (R4), is a risk management intervention which aims to increase the resilience of small scale farmers to climatic shocks. This is done through a combination of four risk management strategies, namely:

  • Disaster Risk Reduction and Safety Nets
  • Risk Transfer (Insurance)
  • Prudent Risk Taking (Credit) and
  • Risk Reserves (Savings)

The R4 harmonizes these four risk management strategies which aim to reduce household vulnerability and food insecurity caused and intensified by climate change and associated hazards.

The project has developed systems that enable vulnerable and food insecure rural populations in the region overcome climate risks through community oriented risk management and focused market-based approaches. The agricultural production of these small scale farmers is dependent on rainfall. Therefore, R4 project will increase the resilience of small holder farmers to climatic shocks through a combination of the above four risk management strategies.

The three year initiative is part of the global Rural Resilience Initiative which was launched in 2012 and is presently working with over 22,000 rural farmers in two other African countries namely; Ethiopia and Senegal. Following its success in the mentioned countries, the project was scaled up to Zambia and Malawi in 2014. Ms. Ertharin Cousin, the World Food Program Executive Director and other officials from WFP, visited the Farmers Club Project in Pemba district, Southern Province on 16 January, 2016.

Farmers’ Clubs Pemba 2016 Activities

A total of 672 Farmers’ Clubs meetings were conducted during the year and among the key issues discussed during these meetings was post-harvest management and storage facilities, land preparation, access to market and farming inputs.

The community-based participatory planning was conducted. 154 community members, representing 19 different social-economic groups were brought together at Kanchomba Farm Institute at different intervals. The key outcome of the activity was the development of Community-led Action Plans for each individual camp. The activity was facilitated by a team from World Food Program, DAPP Zambia and Ministry of Local Government and Housing.

Nearly all Farmers’ Clubs members prepared their land using conservation farming methods. 2,699 farmers representing 95.2% of all registered farmers in the project area cultivated their fields using ox-drawn ploughs. Thirty eight (38) farmers cultivated their fields using tractors, while one hundred twelve (112) farmers prepared their land using basin making. The total size of land in hectares prepared under ripping (tractor and ox-drawn ploughs) was 3,316 hectares, while the total land prepared under basins was 94.6 hectares.

The farmers increased the use of manure and lime in order to reduce the cost on fertilizer and to improve soil structure. The formation of Farmers’ Clubs has relatively improved the adoption and uptake of conservation farming among Farmers’ Club members compared to other areas where such structures are not in place.

All the 2,834 farmers under the Farmers’ Clubs project have been enrolled into the Farmers’ Clubs project insurance for assets (IFA) facility after meeting the required minimum threshold of one hectare of land prepared under conservation agriculture. A total K850 200 equivalent to Euro 8 100 was spent on premium value to cover a total surface area of 2,834 hectares of land. The size of land insured was restricted to one hectare per farmer to ensure coverage of all the 2,834 farmers under the project.

241 (171 males and 70 females) farmers from four new camps obtained agricultural loans from a micro-credit enterprise called Vision Fund. Access to agricultural loan facility has strengthened the farmers’ ability to increase productivity through increased hectares of land planted.

The program has shown that improving access to knowledge on climatic services and information among rural small scale farmers helps in seasonal planning and in managing risks.

Humana People to People through the rural small scale program in Pemba is contributing to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. This is UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 which is focusing on Ending Hunger by 2030.

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