This fourth briefing in a series of four highlights key issues raised at a farmer exchange and learning event held in August 2019 in Mongu District, Western Province, Zambia.

Namushakende Farming Institute (NFI) hosted the field visit and dialogue together with the Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB), Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC) and the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB).

This multi-stakeholder dialogue involved 63 participants, bringing together farmers, farmers’ groups, civil society, agronomists and Ministry of Agriculture officials.

Farming conditions in this region, on the edge of the Barotse Floodplain of the Zambezi River, have become increasingly challenging, within a context of intensifying drought and unpredictable weather, with flash floods and prolonged dry spells during the growing season. Furthermore, the government’s farm input subsidy programme (FISP), which supports the production of chemical intensive mono-culture cash crops, has proven to be ecologically damaging. Indigenous forests have been cut down to make way for large-scale plantations and annual burning is destroying precious soil organic matter, natural forests and their products, as well as critical ecosystem services provided by the floodplains. These factors have led to a loss in biodiversity, deforestation and soil degradation.

This briefing documents the exchange of ideas on transitioning to a smallholder support system based on sustainable organic agriculture (SOA). The aim of SOA is to build on existing farmers’ knowledge and traditional practices, and combine these with modern scientific understanding, resulting in diversified agroecological practices.

Mongu farm visit

“FISP has not been improving the soil. This inorganic fertiliser impoverishes the soil. Farmers have realised that they have to start improving the soil using manure and other organic inputs.” Chama Mwila, Principal, Namushakende Farm Institute

“The time when we were growing up, every home had at least a granary of food. At that time we used to grow using natural fertilisers. The fields were very supportive to the crop. When new technologies came in, chemicals, things like that, we thought we were developing, but we did not know these technologies were bringing a problem.” Frank Mutoke, farmer

Mongu seed table