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.
“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