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

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.

Gear Mumena Kajoba

(He/Him)

Senior Lecturer

Faculty of Geography & the Environment

University of Zambia

I am a Human Geographer, focusing on the geography of Africa, with research interest in Land Tenure Dynamics, Agrarian Studies, Gender, Food Security and Sustainable Development in Africa.

Zambian
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.

Key Takeaways

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.

    How To Apply Insights

    • 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.    

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    About this research

    INTERNATIONAL MULTI-DISCIPLINARY CONFERENCE ON “KNOWLEDGE SHARING AND INNOVATION COMPETITIVENESS FOR RESPONSIVE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT”

    This research received external funding from:

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      Why This Research Matters

      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 & Research Conclusions

      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.

      Research's methodology

      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.

      This research was relevant to some of my colleagues who work on other parts of Zambia. It is probably relevant to start working on other parts of the country and find out what other local peoples are doing. There are also probably a lot of other areas worldwide that this is relevant to, like semi-arid areas and areas affected strongly by climate change.

      However..

      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.

      ConceptDefinition
      InterfacingInterfacing means to connect, intertwine different knowledge systems in a multifaceted approach to a question or an issue, in order to benefit from the wisdom of both systems.
      Scientific knowledge systemScientific knowledge system refers to the point of view of the scientific community on an issue, in this case issues of climate change, climate impact, coping mechanisms, food production vulnerability…
      Local knowledge systemLocal knowledge system refers to the perceptions and preferences of local people in terms of crops, livelihoods… It arises from their food production system and their experiences, especially the accumulated wisdom of the elders, including women farmers.

      Reference this research

      Kajoba, G. M. (2017), “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”, in The  International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, online, www.ijmdr.net  ISSN: 3471-7102

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