By KETRA KALUNGA
IN Zambia and other Sub-Saharan African countries, agriculture systems face a growing number of climate-related vulnerabilities.
Climate change triggers draughts, crop failure, pest and disease outbreak and the degradation of land and water resources. These effects reduce food production.
National food security in Zambia is reliant on a few staple crops, particularly maize which is produced mostly by smallholders under rain-fed conditions.
This makes national food security vulnerable to the effects of climate change which include changes in rainfall patterns, drought and floods, says the World Bank.
To ensure food security, the country has adopted Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) and one way in which it has done so is through the Climate Smart Agriculture Investment Plan (CSAIP) developed by the Ministry of Agriculture and the World Bank.
The CSAIP aims to produce evidence of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technologies that offer the greatest potential as Zambia seeks to sustainably increase productivity, enhance household and agro ecosystem resilience and reduce or remove its greenhouse gas emissions.
And to identify and fill knowledge gaps about the benefits of CSA at the local and national level specifically under climate change, inform policy development and prioritize investment opportunities.
The investment plan is also intended to support the operationalization of the country’s climate commitments toward development of a productive, resilient, and low-emission agriculture sector, says the World Bank profile on CSA in Zambia.
It further indicates that conservation agriculture and agro forestry are the most widely promoted practices in the country.
The profile states that the CSA concept reflects an ambition to improve the integration of agriculture development and climate responsiveness that aims to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand.
The initiatives sustainably increase productivity, enhance resilience, and reduce or remove greenhouse gases (GHGs), and require planning to address trade-offs and synergies between the three pillars of productivity, adaptation and mitigation, it states.
President Hakainde Hichilema has taken a step to promote CSA. This has been demonstrated by his clarion call for increased investment and implementation of smart agriculture policies in Africa’s agriculture sector to stimulate growth.
Mr Hichilema acknowledges the urgency of transitioning to greener agricultural practices in order to address environmental challenges.
He stresses the significance of sustainability in the agricultural sector and the government’s commitment to developing a Comprehensive Agricultural Transformation Support Programme (CASP) that focuses on private sector investment.
Speaking at the Africa Agricultural Policy Leadership Dialogue (AALPD) held in Zambia in June this year, Mr Hichilema said he was confident that CASP would effectively address the emerging and persistent challenges faced by the sector, including climate change, poor soil fertility, and natural resource degradation.
He assures stakeholders that the government’s ongoing reforms will facilitate climate financing and attract investment to improve critical agricultural infrastructure, thus fostering domestic and international trade in agricultural commodities.
Private sector participation is important in the promotion of CSA to mitigate the impact of climate change on agriculture systems.
Community Market for Conservation (COMACO), a social enterprise, is supplementing government efforts in the promotion of CSA agriculture through conservation farming and agroforestry.
Communication Manager Rebecca Snyder says COMACO is working with chiefdoms in Muchinga Eastern provinces to promote conservation farming and agroforestry.
Ms Snyder explains that under conservation farming which is being promoted in Eastern province, communities come up with a piece of land referred to as Community Conservation Area and devise a Community Conservation Plan which outlines the rules and regulations of acceptable and unacceptable practices.
The unacceptable practices that are outlined in the plan include charcoal burning, cutting down of new forests to create new fields among others.
Ms Snyder says COMACO is also promoting the planting of a nitrogen fixing plant called Gliricidia Sepium as a way of promoting climate smart agriculture because the fast growing tree replicates the use of chemical fertilizer and also heals degraded soils.
She says over 250 000 small scale farmers have been engaged by COMACO in Muchinga and Eastern provinces to promote climate smart through agroforestry under the 100 million Gliricidia Sepium tree planting campaign.
As a way of empowering farmers that are practicing climate smart agriculture through conservation and agroforestry, COMACO is promoting bee keeping among small holder farmers.
Ms Snyder says the bee keeping project has about 39 957 hives producing honey which COMACO buys as an off taker and put on the market through its brand called “It’s Wild”.
Afriseed is also helping the government promote CSA through the promotion of climate resilient crop seeds such as sorghum.
Assistant Project Manager, Mutande Tembo says the organization is also encouraging adoption of small grains such as sorghum and millet because they are naturally more resistant to draughts and pastes than maize.
Ms Tembo says Afriseed mechanisms are to train the farmers on how to capitalize on what they already have and are also being trained on intercropping to get the best yield.
She says in an interview that Afriseed partnered with the Enterprise Zambia Challenge Fund on a project titled “Increasing Production and Access to Climate Smart Seed for Smallholder Farmer Productivity and Resilience”.
Ms Tembo explains that through the project, the seed company was supporting 50 smallholder farmers in Chirundu by incorporating them into our Sorghum value chain.
“Afriseed provides certified seed that guarantees a high yield and assures the off take and was also working with smallholder farmers in rice, cowpea, common beans, soybeans, and groundnuts value chains,” she said.
The Word Banka profile on CSA in Zambia says there is potential to access international financing for CSA, particularly through the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Adaptation Fund (AF) both of which the country has not yet accessed.
It adds that the National Climate Change Fund (NCCF) that is currently under formulation could also play a key role in ensuring that national and international financing is directed towards identified CSA investments.
Therefore, the call made by President Hakainde Hichilema at the Africa Agricultural Policy Leadership Dialogue (AALPD) held in Zambia in June this year for increased investment and implementation of smart agriculture policies in Africa’s agriculture sector to stimulate growth is timely.