The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 October 2022
In 2012, Peace Parks Foundation received a generous donation from the Swedish Postcode Lottery to develop a wildlife sanctuary in the Simalaha Community Conservancy in south-western Zambia and improve the local people’s human rights, including their food security by training in better farming methods. The Kadans Foundation, with its partners Hitachi Data Systems and Hercuton, is now funding conservation agriculture in the conservancy.
In and around the Simalaha Community Conservancy, small-scale farmers rely on rainfall and traditional hoe cultivation, resulting in many subsistence farmers struggling to feed their families. Climate change also has an effect and climate change-resistant farming practices are therefore needed in a region where more severe droughts are predicted. The conservation agriculture project aims to increase food security.
“In and around Simalaha the soils are very sandy and the area has not been considered as suitable for farming. The droughts are predicted to get worse in future. Due to poor soil quality, poople rely heavily on cattle, which leads to conflicts with the wildlife”, says Peace Parks Foundation’s conservation agriculture specialist Chrispin Muchindu.
“A successful conservation farming project on the outskirts of the Sioma Ngwezi National Park in Western Zambia has proven that growing crops is possible in the area when the correct methods are used. We have therefore established a test field in Kasaya in the Simalaha Community Conservancy. The results have been very positive.”
“People do not care about wildlife if they are hungry”
Muchindu has long experience in working with protected areas and local communities. “Basic needs and rights have to be fulfilled before people can think about nature conservation. Many people suffer from HIV/AIDS. In addition to growing staple crops like maize and beans, we train people to also grow crops that are highly nutritious such as cabbage and onions.”
What makes conservation agriculture different?
The most important aspect of conservation farming is the minimal disturbance of the soil. In addition, seeds are used more sparingly and natural fertilizers are made by composting cow manure and biodegradable materials.
Less labour is needed, as weeding is only done at specific times, thereby leaving more time for other household duties. Increased productivity leads to saving forests, as less land is cleared by burning. Together, these benefits lead to increased yields, improved food security and profits, and the conservation of biodiversity.
The project aims at reaching at least 350 farmers in and around Simalaha.
Already 60 farmers have been trained in conservation farming and these individuals will again work as trainers to other groups of farmers.
Greet Habasimbi is one of the farmers involved and he is very excited about bigger yields. “Everybody in the area is talking about conservation farming. I am happy to be part of this.