How is the agricultural sector in Zambia

Maureen and her new life - agriculture in the sense of the elephants

In an ecologically important region between the Zambezi and Kwando rivers in Zambia, WWF helps smallholders to ultimately protect nature. Even in times of climate change they should be able to secure their food without ever penetrating further into the habitats of threatened species.

Maureen Mbao is a farmer in southwest Zambia. Here you can feel the nearby Kalahari Desert, the soils are sandy and barren. Rain rarely falls. Silowana complex is the name of the greater region on the border with Angola in which Maureen lives. It is one of the poorest and most remote areas of Zambia. Single mother Maureen Mbao has long been one of the greatest opponents of sustainable agriculture. Until she realized that she could significantly improve her life with it.

In addition to the savannah, valuable dry forests shape the nature in the Silowana complex. The area is part of KAZA, the largest cross-border network of protected areas in Africa, and is an important corridor for the migrations of savannah elephants and other wild animals. But poor harvests and depleted soils are forcing smallholders like Maureen to keep opening up new fields and to clear more and more forests for it. “So far I have never been able to cultivate a field for more than three years,” says Maureen. "In the second year it was hardly possible to feed my children."

Climate change is making it worse

The communities in the Silowana complex are dependent on natural resources, wildlife, water, forests, and fisheries. Maureen and her children live on the produce of their fields. The harder they hit rising temperatures and more irregular rainfallas predicted for the region by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The smallholders have to stick to the Climate change adapt in order not to over-exploit nature more and more and still not be able to secure their livelihood. The WWF helps with this.

WWF project in Zambia: Agriculture in times of climate change

"I can finally feed my family without having to rely on government aid and there are even three meals a day." Maureen Mbao is one of around 2000 smallholder families participating in the WWF project for sustainable agriculture. “Planting hollows produce the best results in my field.” Instead of plowing the entire field, she grows the maize in individual hollows. This protects the soil, it can store water better, remains fertile longer and Maureen does not need more space all the time.

For the small farmers, against the shifting cultivation

Maureen and the other smallholders are now using better seeds and more robust varieties. They learn to propagate the seeds themselves and to store them correctly so that they do not have to be bought from large corporations every year. The farmers learn new cultivation practices such as planting catch crops so that the soil does not leach out as quickly. And they learn to avoid crop loss due to pests, for example. “Since I've been doing organic farming, I've been harvesting 3.5 tons of maize per hectare. Before it was only 1.4 tons! ”The WWF project not only improves the current living situation of Maureen and her children, it also creates one Future perspective: "In the meantime I was able to pay school fees for my children up to the twelfth grade."

Agriculture to protect the elephants

If smallholders like Maureen harvest the highest possible yield per hectare and protect their soil, this ultimately benefits the region's unique biodiversity. An important goal of the WWF project is cultivation on permanent fields. Because as a result of slash and burn for shifting cultivation, devastating forest fires threaten the habitat of the savannah elephants and many other wild animals again and again.

The more the forest disappears, the more often the animals also hit the fields of the smallholders. Such conflicts and the great food insecurity of the local population increase illegal hunting. New cultivation methods improve the food situation, and shift cultivation Human-animal conflicts decreased.

Participation of the municipalities

A project like this can only be successful if the local population is involved in the decision-making process and implementation from the start. A factor that also convinced Maureen: “What really touched me was the involvement of our parishioners in the planning and implementation of the project - and that more women than men participate in it. That makes me feel good! ”In almost two thirds of the families participating in the project, women cultivate the fields. They develop the new cultivation practices in workshops with village advisors from their own communities. Maureen is now a village advisor herself and shares her valuable knowledge.

  • KAZA

    Between Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe lies the Kavango-Zambesi Protected Area Network, or KAZA for short. Continue reading ...