While all categories of farmers are active in the Mazabuka District, the Kafue Flats host large commercial farms including the largest sugarcane plantation in Zambia and approximately 30,000 small-scale farmers registered in the district. With increased population pressure through increased agricultural production, there is a definite need for improved management of the agricultural natural resources, primarily grazing lands, water and soils in this landscape.
Over the past three years, Solidaridad has done extensive work implementing the Sustainable Landscape Management Programme (SLM Programme) in the Mazabuka District of Zambia where agriculture is the main source of livelihood for the community. The SLM programme is divided into three technical working groups focusing on horticulture, livestock and aquaculture. These working groups are mandated to implement commodity specific interventions that address economic challenges faced by communities, enhance productivity through improved practices while prioritizing environmental factors.
The technical working group has identified the following challenges:
- Fish is depleting due to overfishing/unsustainable fishing practices.
- The quality and levels of water in the Kafue River are decreasing and it is threatening the survival of the remaining fish and other biodiversity in the Lower Kafue Sub-Basin.
- Fishers in the Lower Kafue Sub-Basin suffer from lack of information, inadequate skills and a lack of affordable, quality fish fingerlings.
The core objective of the technical team is to relieve pressure from the natural water bodies and start practicing sustainable fishing practices in order for the fish to breed in other water bodies. Two projects were initiated, a fisheries management project in Mungalo, and the Sustainable Aquaculture Development project in Nachipoma.
The project has thus far constructed four large ponds, which have been stocked with 6,000 fingerlings since the beginning of 2019. A cooperative of 60 members has been trained on sustainable fishing practices. The training is focussed on stocking, pond management and entrepreneurship as Solidaridad wants to ensure continuity beyond project timelines. The technical working group has also identified a market in Kasumbalesa, near the Zambia/Congo border for trade through Savannah Streams, a Zambian-based company that sells responsibly sourced food.
Degraded landscape, dried rivers and floods all threaten the future sustainability of the livestock sector within the Mazabuka District. The carrying capacity of the district at large has decreased making it hard for the animals to thrive.
The first challenge the livestock technical group is set to address is farmer livelihoods and their access to markets and trade. Solidaridad Regional Livestock Manager, Dr Christine Yambayamba, said, “If we critically address market issues, we will be addressing the heart of the farmers' concern which speaks to revenue, commercial viability and livelihood. Our approach was to partner with the Zambian government who had already developed a grading system on paper which was limited to human contact. We then looked at ways of increasing access to such knowledge by creating a mobile app."
The Cattle Grading App was developed and is currently being piloted in a programme with 390 farmers. Through the piloting of the app, the programme now has an audience of farmers to engage them in a better livestock management plan which requires sustainable landscape management.
To assist in sustainable landscape management, the programme is also conducting rangeland mapping through satellite imagery to assess the carrying capacity of the grazing lands. The movement of the animals will help in the rehabilitation of the landscape. The exercise will also look at the nutritional value of the different grass species available within a particular radius as part of the determination of the carrying capacity.
In order to effectively manage the landscape, animals will be tagged to monitor movement and the community will be encouraged to adopt communal grazing to enable the practice of strip grazing. The Solidaridad team has also secured a market that will be buying animals from the farmers based on grade.
Fruit & Vegetables
The horticulture technical working group has identified soil degradation as a key point of intervention. The team is currently supporting 32 lead farmers in practicing sustainable organic agriculture that really focuses on soil health restoration through organic practices.
A partnership with Kasisi Agriculture Training Center trains farmers on organic practices based on the premise of working with nature and not against it. Through the training, an important foundational step is taken that serves as a skills transfer opportunity, introduces an individual to the principles of sustainable management of natural resources, and teaches skills on how an individual can handle natural resources.
With four clusters formed in Mazabuka, demonstration plots are being set up in close proximity to the farmers for more practical training. The programme has also supported farmers with organic manure and seeds to be planted in their own farms.
These landscape management considerations ultimately enhance smallholders' adaptation to climate change, which manifests itself as reduced content of moisture in soils. This causes shrinkage in the pastoral vegetation cover and reduction in the yields of pastoral vegetation, thus aggravating the socio-economic problems faced by local communities.
This triggers a negative cycle where communities engage in charcoal making/burning as the main source of livelihood, leading to deforestation and desertification which only exacerbates the disastrous impact of climate change (floods, soil erosion, silted rivers). The SLM programme is therefore geared towards strengthening the adaptive capacity of the local community and building resilient systems that ensure healthy ecosystems and sustainable livelihoods.
Unsustainable landscape practices destroy delicate ecosystems and threaten food production capacity. Sustainable landscape management practices show not only a dedication to the viability of local communities but the global environment as well.
Solidaridad's SLM programme demonstrates that a more considered approach to food production systems can positively impact some of the environmental challenges occurring today. This is how Solidaridad continues to make change that matters.