It’s Wild brand – Made in Zambia, made for green economy
Published On March 9, 2022 » 833 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
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A SOCIAL enterprise active in Eastern, Muchinga, and Central Provinces, Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) is a pioneering solution to the problems that plague Zambia’s rural poor and the conflicts with nature that rural poverty often causes.
Using a business approach, COMACO replaces environmentally destructive practices like poaching or charcoal-making with skills and market incentives that foster wide-scale adoption of climate-smart sustainable agriculture in ways that help to heal the land.
It currently reaches over 230,000 farmers who plant annually over 50 million trees that are restoring soil fertility on farmland and sustaining a renewable supply of fuel wood for household cooking.
From these farmers COMACO buys their crop surplus and manufactures 20 nutritious, chemical-free quality food products under the brand, It’s Wild!
Before COMACO, life for small-scale farmers was very different, and indeed, extremely difficult.
Food shortages were common, school attendance was low, and children often grew up malnourished.
Few would ever have thought these same farmers would be the source of so many food products that are now exported to international markets.
Nor would one have thought these farmers would lay down their guns to take up farming and see a recovery of wildlife and habitat.
Today, it is happening. The problems remain but they are far less, and trends are moving in the right direction.
The It’s Wild! brand of products symbolises a local solution to a Zambian problem that imported brands could never have solved.
To a growing following of those who enjoy the quality of It’s Wild! products, the COMACO story showcases the potential of Zambian innovation for building a better country around agriculture and conservation led by small-scale farmers as well as a social enterprise committed to high standards of manufacturing that return value to small-scale farmers for protecting their land.
This level of commitment has not gone lost among the Zambian citizenry.
Recently, an online survey of peanut butter consumers in Zambia showed 90 per cent preferred It’s Wild!peanut butter with at least 80 per cent saying they preferredIt’s Wild! peanut because of its taste.
This is partly because of the care in manufacturing and partly because COMACO farmers now farm without chemicals, adopting practices that make soils healthier and It’s Wild! products taste more natural.
This has made it possible for COMACO to be the first in Zambia to produce organically certified groundnuts and an organically certified peanut butter that is now on the shelves in South Africa.
This is giving farmers a 10-15 per cent increase in market value for their groundnuts and a big motivation to stick with organic farming.
There is a hidden benefit to this as well. By farming organically, farmers are adding more carbon to the soil, helping Zambia to reduce its emissions and impact on climate change.
COMACO has turned this into another economic opportunity for farming communities by measuring this reduction in green house gas emissions and converting it into carbon credits as an important source of income to support local development needs.
Today, COMACO operates five food processing plants with the capacity to launch hundreds of thousands of small-scale farmers into diverse, lucrative value chains of healthy, chemical-free food products.
Few companies have achieved such a scale of operations to source commodities from so many farmers across difficult to access landscapes and still be able to address conservation challenges at the same time.
As COMACO invests, so too do small-scale farmers with their commitment to nurture the soil with minimum tillage, protection of crop residues from fire and cattle, rotation of maize with legume crops, and adoption of agroforestry to restore soil nutrients.
It is a win-win relationship for everyone.
Zambians enjoy healthy, tasty, and affordable products, farmers see their incomes rise and the It’s Wild! brand gains recognition for its service to farmers and the land.
Clearly, It’s Wild! Is a brand that belongs to Zambia and a brand the nation can be proud of.
It is also a brand born from small-scale farmers that pledged to protect its resources if markets could reward their efforts. It is a promise that remains honored today, 19 years after COMACO had its early beginning.
However, there is more to this brand than most may realize. 52 per cent of COMACO’s farmers are women, and almost half of the leaders who make up the farmer cooperatives that now help drive adoption of improved farming practices are women.
These figures would have been unimaginable in rural Zambia when COMACO was launched.
In addition, when women are included in farmer trainings, you see malnutrition levels decline, school attendance increase, and communities better able to plan their future.
Perhaps an important factor to this transformation in family care and community leadership is the equal opportunity women now have in receiving payment for worked hard to produce.
Women now have financial empowerment and have more direct control over the fate of their households.
In line with the theme for this year’s women’s day of “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow”, COMACO’s dedicated gender program runs 182 village savings and loans groups for women across our operational area, teaching small-business skills and supporting women in their entrepreneurial ventures.
The government is looking for truly Zambian organizations with a capacity to reach rural communities on scale, see sustained impact on environmental needs in the shortest possible time, and build local economies around conservation while contributing to the national economy.
Does COMACO meet these requirements? Is its model well-tested with a good return on investment?
Can COMACO be a reliable partner to government and help it attain gender equality for a sustainable tomorrow?
The answer to these questions is a resounding ‘YES’.
COMACO stands ready for collaboration to help cement future partnerships and synergies as we all cooperate to build a Green Economy for Zambia.
The author of the article is COMACO chief executive officer and founder

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