Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor | University of Zambia
Agriculture and Rural
Southern Africa

Building the resilience of food production systems of small scale farmers in the context of climate change in rural Zambia: the case of Kafwambila village in Sinazongwe district, Southern Zambia

Zero Hunger

I went to a drought prone area to find out if people were aware of the concept of climate change at the local level and its impacts on them, in terms of the crops they grow, the livestock they raise, how they’re coping and what interventions can be made to help them cope better with the impacts of climate change.

References

Journal article: Building the resilience of food production systems of small scale farmers in the context of climate change in rural Zambia: the case of Kafwambila village in Sinazongwe district, Southern Zambia (2017)
Peer Reviewed
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About:

This research used a mixed methods approach, combining availability sampling, international development and semi-structured interviews.

The collection of data was based on availability sampling, and then I conducted semi-structured interviews with 39 Heads of Household; In Depth  interviews with KeyInformants in the community-eg. Ward Councilor, Agricultural Extension Worker, Head Teacher of a local school, etc and Focus Group Discussions/ or Village Meetings in the study area.

The main limitation was that it was hard to capture the perspectives of women on important issues during focus groups discussions. Women on their own are able to speak more freely, but as soon as you combine them with men, they become silent, because traditional norms make husbands uncomfortable in the presence of married women who are too vocal in public spaces. Thus in this case, no woman showed up at the two focus group meetings that were convened. Only the men turned up! This could signal the depth of strong patriarchal influence in the rural community.

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Funding:

This research was funded by the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature

  • For policymakers
  • For Academia & Research
  • For Government & Policy
  • Zambia
  • climate change
  • resilience
  • smallholder farmers
  • Published: 2022

Key points

  • The main conclusion was that scientific knowledge and local knowledge need to be interfaced, by having scientists take into account the perceptions and needs of local populations.

The main purpose of this research was to go to drought-prone areas and find out whether people there were aware of the concept of climate change at the local level and of its impact on their livelihoods. It was also to find out what can be made to help them cope better with these impacts.

Findings

  • Food production systems for the village are very vulnerable.

    The people of the village hold very little land. I tried to find out what they considered a good and a bad year in terms of cereal harvests, and I found out that they produce very little. They had therefore, developed a Livelihood coping strategy

  • Usually, scholars find that the top priority crop is hybrid maize, however, they grow traditional crops like bulrush millet (Zembwe), sorghum (Maila), and local maize (Mapopwe).

    Hybrid maize is only the least crop on their priority list.

  • Scientific knowledge and local knowledge need to be interfaced, connected.

    Local people need the help of scientists, need access to their knowledge and expertise, but scientists need to consider and be aware of the preferences and perceptions of local people, so as to find more sustainable solutions to issues of climate change and its impacts, and be able to build resilience.

What it means

First, food production systems for the village are very vulnerable. The people of the village hold very little land.

I asked them to estimate their cereal crop harvests in both a good year and a bad year. I tried to find out what they considered a good and a bad year in terms of cereal harvests, and I found out that they produce very little.

To secure their livelihoods, they have developed a Livelihood coping strategy where they sell livestock like cattle and goats, buy fish from lake Kariba and then go to the plateau with better rains, to either sell the fish to raise cash with which to purchase maize grain from farmers there, or barter the fish with grai; then return to the Gwembe valley to grind the grain using Hammer Mills established by entrepreneurs, to obtain maize mealie meal for the staple dish; then repeat the cycle again and again-thus creating a Livelihood Circuit.

Another finding was that the top priority crops the village people grew are the opposite of what scholars tend to focus on in other contexts. Usually, scholars find that the top priority crop is hybrid maize, however, they grow traditional crops like bulrush millet(Zembwe), sorghum(Maila), and local maize(Mapopwe). Hybrid maize is only the least crop on their priority list. This has led to a higher adaptability to the local environment. Therefore, if there has to be any intervention from the scientific community, the government or the private sector, they need to help people access hybrid varieties of those crops, which are early maturing,drought tolerant, high yielding and are palatable.

The main conclusion was that scientific knowledge and local knowledge need to be interfaced, connected. Local people need the help of scientists, need access to their knowledge and expertise, but scientists need to consider and be aware of the preferences and perceptions of local people, so as to find more sustainable solutions to issues of climate change and its impacts, and be able to build resilience.

How to use

  • Scientific and indigenous knowledge need to be interfaced when doing interventions with indigenous people's livelihoods, especially in the case of areas impacted by climate change
  • In this case, it was a question of which priorities in respect to intervention? Whose interests or preferences, in the propagation of seed varieties to help the farmers? Should the focus be on strengthening the Livelihood Circuit(s) which is(are) based on accumulated experience rather than on external solutions?
  • Also, need to consider the bigger picture of regional/national transformation- need for infrastructure like roads, irrigation, hybrid seed varieties and trading markets for grain, livestock and fish, so that small-scale farmers can transition out of subsistence into market oriented production, but based on what is already within their cropping, livestock and fishing systems
  • There is further need to strive for an Exit Option for the rural surplus population to be absorbed in manufacturing industries, mines, construction, transport, trading and in the services sector, like banking, education and health, etc OUTSIDE agriculture via Industrialization of Zambia, the Southern African Region and the Continent of Africa, as a whole
  • This research has been relevant to some of my colleagues who work on other parts of Zambia

Acknowledgements

Thank you to iDE Global

These insights were made available thanks to the support of iDE Global, who are committed to the dissemination of knowledge for all.

 

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Mumena Kajoba, Gear. 'Building the resilience of food production systems of small scale farmers in the context of climate change in rural Zambia: the case of Kafwambila village in Sinazongwe district, Southern Zambia'. Acume. https://www.acume.org/r/building-the-resilience-of-food-production-systems-of-small-scale-farmers-in-the-context-of-climate-change-in-rural-zambia-the-case-of-kafwambila-village-in-sinazongwe-district-southern-zambia/