Transforming the farm input support programme (FISP) to diversified agroecology practices in Mongu district, Western Province, Zambia

This fourth briefing in a series of four highlights key issues raised at a farmer exchange and learning event held in August 2019 in Mongu District, Western Province, Zambia.

Namushakende Farming Institute (NFI) hosted the field visit and dialogue together with the Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB), Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC) and the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB).

This multi-stakeholder dialogue involved 63 participants, bringing together farmers, farmers’ groups, civil society, agronomists and Ministry of Agriculture officials.

Farming conditions in this region, on the edge of the Barotse Floodplain of the Zambezi River, have become increasingly challenging, within a context of intensifying drought and unpredictable weather, with flash floods and prolonged dry spells during the growing season. Furthermore, the government’s farm input subsidy programme (FISP), which supports the production of chemical intensive mono-culture cash crops, has proven to be ecologically damaging. Indigenous forests have been cut down to make way for large-scale plantations and annual burning is destroying precious soil organic matter, natural forests and their products, as well as critical ecosystem services provided by the floodplains. These factors have led to a loss in biodiversity, deforestation and soil degradation.

This briefing documents the exchange of ideas on transitioning to a smallholder support system based on sustainable organic agriculture (SOA). The aim of SOA is to build on existing farmers’ knowledge and traditional practices, and combine these with modern scientific understanding, resulting in diversified agroecological practices.

“FISP has not been improving the soil. This inorganic fertiliser impoverishes the soil. Farmers have realised that they have to start improving the soil using manure and other organic inputs.” Chama Mwila, Principal, Namushakende Farm Institute

“The time when we were growing up, every home had at least a granary of food. At that time we used to grow using natural fertilisers. The fields were very supportive to the crop. When new technologies came in, chemicals, things like that, we thought we were developing, but we did not know these technologies were bringing a problem.” Frank Mutoke, farmer

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Zambia_Mongu briefing WEB

 

Transforming the FISP to diversified agroecology practices in Pemba District, Southern Province, Zambia

 

The third in the series of four farmer exchange meetings in Zambia
took place in July, in Pemba District, Southern Province.

Through a partnership between the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and the Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB), Kanchomba Farming Institute (KFI) hosted the field visit and dialogue, together with Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC). The 58 participants included farmers and representatives from local organisations and the Department of Agriculture.

This region’s generally hot, dry climate has been exacerbated by severe droughts in recent years. The current farmer input support programme (FISP), with its strong bias to chemical fertilizers and hybrid maize seeds, has not resulted in sustainable farming practices nor has it enhanced climate resilience.

The objective of the meeting was to exchange ideas on transitioning to a smallholder support system for diversified agroecological farming, with discussions on topics including farmer seed, organic soil fertility management, water harvesting, intercropping and mixing livestock and crop farming.

Indigenous seed is a vital part of sustainable organic practices. And yet, while 75% of seed is still accessed through the farmer seed system, the knowledge of how to maintain indigenous seed varieties, which is linked to the preparation of local foods, is under threat.

But there are glimmers of hope, with local groups having initiated their own exchanges and training on seed multiplication, which has flourished into the creation of a community seed bank and demonstration plots. The meeting provided an opportunity to reflect on progress made and what should follow.

Please click here for the briefing.

“Sustainable organic agriculture is environmentally friendly. We do not introduce harmful chemicals into the soil or pollute the water. It is acceptable to our local culture. Just as we won’t introduce harmful chemicals into the soil, in the same way we won’t introduce things into our communities that are harmful. Sustainable agriculture involves a lot of effort and planning, but as time goes on, it is more fruitful and more profitable. There is a lot of indigenous technological knowledge we have. In agroecology we tap that knowledge and put our ideas together with science.”
Brian Chavwanga, Kanchomba Farm Manager