UK gives Zambia £25m to support conservation farming

THE UK government through the Department for International Development (DFID) is providing £25 million towards a conservation farming programme that will support rural Zambian farming families to improve livelihoods.

The funding would help the beneficiaries through building their resilience to climate change.

Head of DFID Zambia Emma Donnelly said two-thirds of the labour force in Zambia was engaged in agriculture, and 78 percent of whom were women farmers.

She said with Zambia’s great untapped agriculture potential, increasing the productivity and incomes of farmers was an effective way to support inclusive growth and reduce poverty.

Ms Donnelly said the five-year programme was expected to benefit more than 600,000 small and medium scale farmers in Zambia and would run from 2016 to 2020.

“And by increasing farmers’ ability to withstand droughts in the face of increased temperatures, reduced rainfall and more extreme weather, DFID will help farmers to maintain their standard of living even during dry spells,” she said.

She said DFID would work with the Conservation Farming Unit (CFU) to implement a programme which has been named ‘‘Climate Smart Agriculture Zambia (CSAZ)’’.

The programme would train farmers in climate smart agriculture techniques to enable them to understand the steps involved in applying the technology and the benefits they would get.

It would also facilitate commercial relationships between farmers and private sector providers of agricultural services and inputs such as use of machinery and herbicides – both of which were critical for the adoption and sustainability of climate smart agriculture practices.

Ms Donnelly said the climate smart agriculture has the potential to bring about huge benefits to women farmers such as reductions in labour demand, saying this would enable women to grow alternative crops used either for home consumption or selling on the market to improve incomes for the households.

The Conservation Farming Unit has maintained a close working relationship with the Ministry of Agriculture in Zambia, and many other organizations to promote agriculture.

Conservation Farming is a farming technique introduced in the US Dustbowl in the 1930s to reduce erosion, and has since been adopted in many developing countries because of its potential to protect water and soil resources, while increasing productivity and yields.