Promoting conservation agriculture in the district of Choma
The majority of households in Choma district, located in the Southern Province of Zambia, depend on rainfed, agricultural-related activities for their livelihoods. That is why when the rains start, usually between October to November, and even into December, many farmers in Choma are busy working with their families to prepare their lands before the planting season is over.
Evelyn Mikunga has been a farmer since 1991, when her family moved from Livingstone (where her late husband was working) to settle on their plot of land in Choma. She has about one acre of land, situated next to a busy roadside. But accessing agricultural inputs, like maize seed and fertilizer, and hiring extra help to ease the workload on her farm are some of the major challenges she has encountered in the past few years. Her son and grandchildren also live on her farm, having low yields have meant less food for their family and less food to sell for extra income.
To face these challenges, Evelyn Mikunga is doing something a little bit different this year; she is adopting CA practices so that she can boost her maize production – the country’s staple food crop. Under FISRI III, funded by the European Union Food Facility, lead farmers in Choma have been selected and trained on CA best practices so that they can each pass on new skills and knowledge to up to 15 other neighbouring farmers.
That is exactly how Evelyn Mikunga learned about these techniques, such as ox-drawn ripping and planting and weeding on time. After seeing significant improvements in the plots of neighbouring farmers, who adopted the same CA techniques during previous planting seasons, she decided to put these practices to the test on a large portion of her land.
Although Evelyn and son only finished planting the day before, she is very confident that the outcome of adopting CA will bring improvements to her harvest. What also makes her field stand out, is that it is one of the 21 roadside demonstration sites selected in the district.
Once her crops have emerged, she will help raise awareness on CA to other small-scale farmers, like herself, by organizing possible field days for those who live nearby and work with camp extension officers to set up a road sign promoting CA for those who are passing along the main road aside from her field. Before this happens, Evelyn Mikunga is looking forward to accessing herbicides to allow her crops to emerge successfully so that the weeds do not affect her crops at an early stage.