Author: Mangiza Chongo, Hivos
Chongwe is one of the major suppliers of fruits and vegetables to the population of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. In 2015, a study by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and RUAF on City Region Food Systems revealed that only 25% of smallholder farmers in the study area (city region of Lusaka and surrounding peri-urban areas) use conservation agriculture practices and that there is high use of agrochemicals which endanger the health and the environment. For this reason, one of the key focus areas for HealthyFoodAfrica’s Food System Lab in Chongwe is to address these challenges by building capacity of farmers in sustainable use of agrochemicals as well as capacity building in sustainable organic agriculture as an alternative.
To kick start this work, The HFA project procured seeds for 50 farmers in Kanakantapa area in Chongwe. These farmers will be trained on the adverse effects of the use of synthetic chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and will be trained in organic farming and how they can use their farm inputs in producing healthier food and sustaining our already struggling environment. The procurement of the seeds necessitated a farmer verification exercise to ascertain ownership to land of the beneficiaries and to get a deeper understanding of the context within which the farmers are currently operating.
Diversification and crop rotation to use
One of the major observed challenges is most of the farmers depend on rudimentary means of gardening thereby limiting the amount of produce that can be grown/supported at a particular time. Water sources are mostly boreholes, hand pumps and streams and they run dry during the hot season. This is a challenge for the project because we need constant supply of vegetables do develop identified value chains.
An opportunity observed during this exercise is that the project can leverage on activities already being practiced by the farmers such as crop rotation and can further promote integrated farming systems since the farmers already have diverse livestock. Diversification and re-integration of crop and livestock operations can be fairly easy because participants are already engaged in livestock production.
The work of Chongwe FSL on promoting Sustainable Organic Agriculture is an environmentally friendly and economically viable option. While it benefits climate change advocates by reducing the use of fertilizers, it also will assist farmers to make use of already available resources and promote recycling of on-farm resources. At the same time, it will provide much healthier food to the market in Lusaka and ensure sustainable food systems.