Photo: Gyanu Kumar Shakya/Share and Care Nepal

From: Footsteps 77

Tools and ideas for improving food security

Photo: Jon Stanhope

Photo: Jon Stanhope

In many countries in southern Africa, food insecurity is increasing. Drought is a key factor, but farming practices are also a major cause. Food insecurity is a particular issue in rural areas, where agriculture is the main economic activity. In 2002 the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) identified three districts where help was needed to improve food security.

Developing the food security programme

EFZ first carried out a needs assessment in one of the districts. The results showed that the lack of food in the area was caused mainly by the farming practices used. The needs assessment also showed that some farmers in the area had reaped a successful harvest in spite of the droughts. This was due to their knowledge and practice of conservation farming methods over a long period of time. These farming methods aim to conserve soil and water while at the same time providing a sustainable livelihood for the farmer.

After the needs assessment, EFZ worked alongside village committees to design a food security programme. This programme targeted more than 2,000 households. One of the key parts of the programme was the promotion of conservation farming in place of the conventional farming methods that were being widely used in the area. Some of the differences between conventional and conservation farming methods are explained in the box below.

Due to the proven benefits of Conservation Farming the Government of Zambia had already been promoting it across the country. EFZ decided to work alongside the Ministry of Agriculture and the Conservation Farming Unit (CFU) to distribute information about conservation farming to the households targeted by the programme. Each farmer was also provided with seed and fertiliser.

Community meetings were held in which the programme was explained to the target households. Later on, workshops about conservation farming were carried out to train people to become trainers at community level. These trainers were expected to train individual farmer households through village-based training workshops. Farmer co-operatives were set up to enable the programme to reach farmers. Poor farmers were encouraged to join a Farmer co-operative themselves.

Results

After the harvest the households realised that the fields that had been farmed using conservation methods had yielded more than those that had used conventional methods. Other surveys confirmed that conservation farming produced on average 1.5 tonnes more maize per hectare than conventional farming. In addition, the techniques used in conservation farming meant that less fertiliser was needed.

Conservation farming improved food security for farmers because it minimised crop loss during drought.

Learning points

The knowledge and experience of conservation farming is increasing in Zambia, and gradually more households are adopting the techniques. EFZ’s review had the following learning points:

Joan Mute is a Programs Manager in the Ethics, Society and Development Department of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia.

Plot 8665, Kamloops Avenue, Lusaka 10101, Zambia.

Email: evafeza@zamnet.zm

Some examples of the differences between conventional and conservation farming

Conventional farming

Some aspects of conventional farming negatively affect crop yields:

Conservation farming

This is a combination of methods which aim to conserve water, soil quality, moisture, fertility and seed production, as well as the farmer’s energy, time and money. Some of the key aspects and benefits include:

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