Conservation Agriculture: Zambia’s Double-Edged Sword Against Climate Change and Hunger

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Author: Friday Phiri | Published: November 7, 2017

As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020.

While achieving this goal requires serious mitigation ambitions, developing country parties such as Zambia have also been emphasising adaptation as enshrined in Article 2 (b) of the Paris Agreement: Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.

The emphasis by developing country parties on this aspect stems from the fact that negative effects of climate change are already taking a toll on people’s livelihoods. Prolonged droughts and flash floods have become common place, affecting Agricultural production and productivity among other ecosystem based livelihoods, putting millions of people’s source of food and nutrition in jeopardy.

It is worth noting that Zambia’s NDC focuses on adaptation. According to Winnie Musonda of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “There are three mitigation components—renewable energy development, conservation farming and forest management, while adaptation, which has a huge chunk of the support programme, has sixteen components all of which require implementation.”

This therefore calls for the tireless efforts of all stakeholders, especially mobilisation and leveraging of resources, and community participation anchored on the community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) approach.

Considering the country’s ambitious emission cuts, conservation agriculture offers a good starting point for climate resilience in agriculture because it has legs in both mitigation and adaptation, as agriculture is seen as both a contributor as well as a solution to carbon emissions.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Conservation Agriculture (CA) is an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security, while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. Minimum tillage, increased organic crop cover and crop rotation are some of the key principles of Conservation Agriculture.

As a key stakeholder in agriculture development, FAO is doing its part by supporting the Ministry of Agriculture in the implementation of the Conservation Agriculture Scaling Up (CASU) project. Targeting to benefit a total of 21,000 lead farmers and an additional 315,000 follower farmers, the project’s overall goal is to contribute to reduced hunger, improved food security, nutrition and income while promoting sustainable use of natural resources in Zambia.

So what is emerging after implementation of the 11 million Euro project? “The acid test was real in 2015 when the rainfall pattern was very bad,” says Damiano Malambo, a CA farmer of Pemba district in Southern Zambia. “My skepticism turned into real optimism when the two hectares I cultivated under conservation farming redeemed me from a near disaster when the five hectares under conventional farming completely failed.”

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