Agriculture is very important to Zambia, accounting for over 18 percent of GDP and more than 60 percent of jobs. Despite its importance, the agricultural sector is not living up to its potential. More can be done to improve productivity and livelihoods of farmers, 78 percent of whom are women, as well as build resilience to climate change. The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) is giving out £25 million ($36 million) to Zambia to be able to achieve these.
“With Zambia’s great untapped agriculture potential, increasing the productivity and incomes of farmers is an effective way to support inclusive growth and reduce poverty,” said Ms Emma Donnelly, Head of DFID Zambia. According to her, “by increasing farmers’ ability to withstand droughts in the face of increased temperatures, reduced rainfall and more extreme weather, DFID will help farmers to maintain their standard of living even during dry spells.”
Extreme weather phenomenon El Nino had worsened drought in some parts of Africa, especially the southern part, with countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa seeing agricultural productivity drop to abysmally low levels. Zambia’s corn, however, defied El Nino as production of the staple increased following improved rains that ended months of drought. During the drought, many farmers were already considering reducing the amount of maize they plant and switching to faster-growing crops such as beans that can better survive poor weather.
The DFID will now work with the Conservation Farming Unit (CFU), a not-for-profit Zambian organisation established to promote climate smart agricultural practices and policies, to support rural Zambian farming families to improve livelihoods through building their resilience to climate change.
The programme which has been named ‘Climate Smart Agriculture Zambia (CSAZ)’ will run for five years – 2016 to 2020. The DFID-funded programme is expected to benefit more than 600,000 small and medium scale farmers.
In the programme, farmers will be trained in climate smart agriculture techniques, enabling them to understand the steps involved in applying the technology and the benefits they would get. The programme will also facilitate commercial relationships between farmers and private sector providers of agricultural services and inputs such as use of machinery and herbicides – both of which are critical for the adoption and sustainability of climate smart agriculture practices.
Climate smart agriculture has the potential to bring about huge benefits to women farmers such as reductions in labour demand. This enables women to grow alternative crops used either for home consumption or selling on the market to improve incomes for the households.