Posts Tagged ‘Zambia’

Sep29

Sowing the Seeds of a Food-Secure Future

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By Dana Drugmand

Worldwide, 195 million children suffer from malnutrition, which adversely affects their development and overall well-being. Approximately 26 percent of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa. And according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the number of malnourished children in the region will rise 18 percent between 2001 and 2020. Fortunately, innovations such as school feeding programs and kitchen vegetable gardens are working to combat malnutrition and hunger in African children.

Schoolchildren in Uganda are learning how to grow fruits and vegetables in kitchen gardens funded by Seeds for Africa. (Photo Credit: Kellogg)

One organization, Seeds for Africa, has been instrumental in helping children gain access to local, nutritious fruits and vegetables. A central part of this organization’s work is teaching children the value of growing their own food by helping them to establish kitchen gardens and fruit tree orchards. Seeds for Africa funds kitchen vegetable garden development at primary schools in Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, and Sierra Leone.

In Kenya, Seeds for Africa coordinator Thomas Ndivo Muema has helped primary schools in the Nairobi region establish vegetable gardens and orchards of 200 fruit trees and has also supplied water tanks. In Uganda, fruit trees and vegetable gardens have been established at 77 schools around Kampala, the capital city. And in Sierra Leone, Seeds for Africa coordinator Abdul Hassan King has helped oversee tree planting projects in 50 primary schools and advised kitchen vegetable gardens operating at 15 other schools.

In 2011, Kellogg UK donated £6434 (US$9,946) to Seeds for Africa to fund “breakfast clubs” in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia—clubs in which schoolchildren are fed breakfast if they attend class. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, some 60 percent of children come to school without having eaten breakfast, if they attend school at all. By providing a nutritious breakfast, the initiative helps to improve attendance as well as academic performance and student well-being. Results from breakfast club trials indicate that students who participated scored better on school tests and were happier overall than students who did not participate. School attendance also increased to 95 percent.

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Aug09

COMACO strengthens incentives, expands efforts to western Luangwa Valley

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By Graham Salinger 

Community Markets for Conservation(COMACO), the group behind the It’s Wild local food brand in Zambia that sells everything from organic rice to honey, is expanding its conservation efforts to the western regions of the Luangwa Valley.

COMACO hopes that a recent plan to strengthen incentives for practicing sustainable agriculture will help preserve the Luangwa Valley’s environment and wildlife (Photo Credit: Paola Bouley).

COMACO was founded thirty years ago and helps farmers in Zambia grow indigenous crops instead of relying on poaching wildlife as their primary source of income. COMACO also works to reduce the practice of chitemene, which involves cutting down and burning trees as a method of producing ash to improve crop yield. The organization focuses on training farmers in conservation methods and establishing markets to sell products through the It’s Wild brand. The It’s Wild brand is sold in major supermarket chains across Zambia, including ShopRite, Checkers, and Spar.

COMACO has provided training for more than 40,000 small-scale farming families living across the Luangwa Valley. In 2009 it purchased over 3,000 tons of agricultural commodities from small scale farmers. COMACO works with over 1,329 former hunters in efforts to use agriculture as an alternative to poaching.

Looking to build on these successes, COMACO is working with the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) to extend its operations to areas in the west that have not been involved in the process. This year, ZAWA has given COMACO data on areas where illegal poaching is still common, allowing COMACO to target its efforts to specific regions. The new plan offers increased incentives for people to give up hunting in favor of farming, “the whole principle of COMACO is to offer communities a choice: a better life with skills, trade and food security through COMACO—or –a continued reliance on natural resource destruction at their own risk….”explained COMACO in announcing plans to strengthen current efforts.

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Apr12

FAO and EC’s Promotion of “Climate-Smart” Agriculture

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By Marissa Dwyer

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Commission have announced a €5.3 million (approximately US$7 million) three-year project to promote “climate-smart” approaches to agriculture. FAO says that “climate-smart” agriculture “sustainably increases productivity, resilience (adaptation), [and] reduces/removes greenhouse gases (mitigation) while enhancing the achievement of national food security and development goals.”

FAO reports that crop agriculture is responsible for 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

FAO reports that crop agriculture is responsible for 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Efforts, therefore, will need to be aimed at both improving livelihoods of farmers and improving food access, as well as reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

The announcement of this project is timely. A recent report from the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change finds that climate change will likely lead to a reduction in crop yields. This issue is magnified by the fact that changes will vary by region, so some countries’ agricultural outputs may suffer disproportionately from climate change effects.

The project will focus on three countries: Malawi, Vietnam, and Zambia. The European Commission will contribute €3.3 million (US$4.4 million) and the FAO will provide the remaining €2 million (US$2.6 million) and will take the lead on the implementation of the project. All three countries are expected to be significantly affected by climate change. Although the unique conditions of each location must be taken into account in developing plans, all three countries can learn from the progress of one another in pursuing strategies that are more “climate-smart.”

In Malawi, George Matiya, the Dean of Environmental Sciences at the Bunda College of Agriculture, said that the country will likely be more affected by negative implications of climate change because of its narrow economic base, where a large part of the population are farmers. Matiya pointed out that the southern region of Malawi will be especially vulnerable to more extreme weather such as floods, high temperatures, and drought. Innovations and investments to develop and make available different crops, such as ones that are more drought resistant or that can mature earlier, he states, will be crucial.

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Apr04

Nourishing the Planet TV: Teaching Sustainable Practices to Sustain Livelihoods

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In this week’s episode, Nourishing the Planet discusses how the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC) is working to teach farmers in Zambia low-cost and sustainable agricultural practices. KATC offers a variety of short courses, lasting from three days to two weeks, which allow participants to gain experience in agroforestry, conservation tillage, and organic pest management.

Video: http://youtu.be/bnigw5UGMF0

To read more about the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre, see: Innovation of the Week: Teaching Sustainable Practices to Sustain Livelihoods.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

 

Nov09

Nourishing the Planet TV: Locally Produced Crops for Locally Consumed Products

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In this week’s episode, research intern Isaac Hopkins discusses a collaboration between farmers in Zambia and a local brewery that uses the sorghum they grow to make affordable lager.

Video: http://youtu.be/eWqvdjJKo7o

To read more about sorghum farmers in Zambia, see: Innovation of the Week: Locally Produced Crops for Locally Consumed Products

Sep21

Nourishing the Planet TV: It’s All About the Process

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In this week’s episode, research intern Jenna Banning discusses the benefits of processing. By providing the right tools and services, organizations such as the Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) and the East Africa Dairy Development, are helping farmers improve their livelihoods and communities.

Video: http://youtu.be/H46OA_RPsR4

To read more about processing, see Innovation of the Week: It’s All About the Process 

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

Sep14

Nourishing the Planet TV: Using Small Businesses to Create Local Markets

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In this week’s episode, research intern Christina Wright discusses Sylvia Banda’s entrepreneurial efforts in Zambia. Since 1986, Banda has created small businesses like Sylva Professional Catering Services Limited. Her businesses have successfully created markets for local farmers and emphasized local cooking methods.

Video: http://youtu.be/Mq-RifGnmsc

To read more about how small business are helping local communities, see: Innovation of the Week: Using Small Businesses to Create Local Markets

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

Aug02

What Works: Turning Farmers into Businessmen and Women

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By Matt Styslinger

Poor farmers in rural areas often cannot afford expensive seeds and fertilizers, and they lack access to far away markets to sell their crops. Agricultural supply dealers and extension services do not reach many areas—the average farmer in sub-Saharan Africa has to travel more than 10 kilometers to reach an agro-dealer. While aid projects often attempt to assist farmers in these areas with inputs, education, and other support, farming communities can become dependent on aid organizations. But by helping farmers run their farms more like a business, establishing networks of agricultural supply businesses, and helping farmers connect to functioning markets, some aid projects are helping subsistence farmers become thriving entrepreneurs.

Farmers and agribusiness agents are using cell phones as bank accounts, to pay for orders, to manage agricultural inputs, to collect and store information about customers, and to build credit (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Care International’s work in Zambia focuses on increasing crop production and improving farmers’ access to agricultural inputs, such as seeds and fertilizers. But instead of giving away bags of inputs to farmers, Care creates access through a business approach. One way they’re doing this is by creating a network of agro-dealers so that farmers can get the right inputs at the right time—unlike subsidy approaches that give farmers fertilizer for free, but often at the wrong time of year. It is important to apply fertilizer at critical growth stages of the crop to reap the full benefits. Agro-dealers are trained and given start-up grants. In this way, the organization’s activities remain invisible to farmers, allowing Care to be a catalyst to the market without distorting the basic pricing structure. According to Care, business-like approaches to agriculture, alongside more traditional ones, allows local farming industries to flourish without becoming dependent on gifts of fertilizer or seed.

Many farmers and agribusiness agents in Zambia are also using cell phones as bank accounts, to pay for orders, to manage agricultural inputs, to collect and store information about customers, and to build credit. Mobile Transactions, a financial services company for the “unbanked,” allows customers to use their phones like an ATM card, says Mike Quinn, Mobile Transactions General Manager. An estimated 80 percent of Zambians, particularly in rural areas, don’t have bank accounts, making it difficult for them to make financial transactions such as buying seed or fertilizer. But by using Mobile Transactions, farmers are not only able to make purchases and receive payment electronically, they are also building a credit history, which can make getting loans easier.

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Jul21

Innovation of the week: Teaching Sustainable Practices to Sustain Livelihoods

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By Supriya Kumar

In Zambia, poor rural families rely on agriculture to sustain themselves, but many farmers are unable to produce enough food to feed their own families, let alone to sell at markets to earn income. They are forced to take out loans to purchase inputs, such as seeds and fertilizer, which often don’t reach them in time because of bad roads.

Zambian farmers are able to share information and learn new practices through study circles (Photo credit: KATC)

But the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC), under the leadership of Brother Paul Desmarais, provides agricultural education to farmers on practices that require fewer inputs, which are helping to increase crop yields and reducing production costs.

Founded by Desmarais in 1974, KATC originally focused on conventional agriculture and encouraged Zambian farmers to use chemical fertilizers. For fifteen years, KATC promoted industrial agriculture and in only two of those fifteen years did farmers earn enough money to buy inputs. After visiting successful organic farms in Ontario, Canada, Desmarais saw the potential in organic farming, and shifted the center’s focus to more sustainable agricultural practices.

Today, KATC offers a variety of short courses, lasting from three days to two weeks, which allow participants to gain experience in agroforestry, conservation tillage, and organic pest management. Farmers are taught how to produce more food on their farms by improving soil fertility and preserving the environment through the use of natural fertilizers, such as compost and green manure, as well as through crop rotations.

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Jul14

Targeting Gaps in the Food Supply Chain: Going Beyond Agricultural Production to Achieve Food Security

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Agricultural production is only the first step in moving the world’s food from farm to fork, according to Nourishing the Planet, a project of the Worldwatch Institute. The other links in the food chain—harvesting, packaging, storing, transporting, marketing, and selling—ensure that food actually reaches consumers. Inefficiencies in these activities, rather than just low yields or poor farming techniques, are often to blame for food shortages and low prices for growers.

Farmers need the right tools, including access to markets to sell their products, in order to improve their livelihoods. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

“Many of the farms and organizations we visited in Africa seemed to have the most success reducing hunger and poverty through efforts that had little to do with producing more crops,” said Nourishing the Planet director Danielle Nierenberg, who spent two years traveling across sub-Saharan Africa researching food chains in over 25 countries.

With the United Nations projecting a global population of more than 9 billion by 2050, increasing food chain efficiency will become ever more essential. Producers and consumers must be part of a food chain that feeds the world, provides fair prices to farmers, and works in harmony with the environment. “When groups of small farmers better organize their means of production—whether ordering the right inputs at the right time or selling their crops directly to customers—they become more resilient to fluctuations in global food prices while also better serving local communities,” said Robert Engelman, Executive Director of Worldwatch.

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