Zambian women break cycle of poverty
File Image: IOL
JOHANNESBURG – Zambia has seen a rise in more frequent and intense floods, recurrent droughts and other climate risks that have reduced yields for farmers, putting lives and livelihoods in the cross-hairs.
Sylvia Chiinda lives on the edge of desperation. Her husband died a few years ago, leaving her with no savings or possessions. It was a crushing blow for the mother of seven.
With her maize and peanut farm production dwindling, Sylvia was forced to find an alternative income to keep her family afloat.
She started running a makeshift grocery shop in her village of Kanakantapa in Zambia’s Chongwe District. But the income – just 300 Zambian kwacha (US$15) in a good month – is barely enough to meet her family’s basic needs.
“I can’t give up. I need an income because I have many children and it’s my responsibility to provide for them,” says Sylvia.
In the face of rising climate risks and unprecedented adversity, the 47-year-old single mother and breadwinner is determined to change her situation.
Now a UN coalition is helping climate-stressed small-scale farmers like Sylvia to tap into a booming and drought-resistant source of income: goat rearing.
Mobilised by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the role players include the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programme (WFP) and national institutions such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA), and Zambia Meteorological Department.
Dubbed “Strengthening Climate Resilience of Agricultural Livelihoods in Agro-Ecological Regions I and II in Zambia”, or SCRALA, the project supports resilient agricultural livelihoods in the face of climate change and promotes diversification practices to improve food security and income generation.
The project is making important strides to empower women such as Syliva as rural entrepreneurs and agents of change, according to acting project manager Parick Muchimba.
The project was made possible with initial funding of US$32 million from GCF – the world’s largest dedicated climate fund – along with US$103 million from the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture, US$369,000 from WARMA and US$1.4 million from UNDP.
Single women like Sylvia are among the most vulnerable in Zambia’s patriarchal traditional communities, where age-old customs dictate a woman’s life. This vulnerability is compounded by the ravages of climate change.
Sylvia is among more than 8,000 beneficiaries – mostly women – who were trained in goat rearing and animal husbandry practices through the far-reaching and innovative project. Women were provided with tools and training to prevent diseases, build sheds and breeding management. To kick off the intervention, each beneficiary received five goats.
Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary Songowayo Zyambo in a statement said they are confident such grounded, field-based learning will help farmers adapt to the country’s shifting climate.
“The current farmer to extension worker ratio in Zambia stands at about 1000:1, and this is against an ideal and internationally recommended ratio of about 400:1. Therefore, in an effort to improve extension service delivery, the government of Zambia has been promoting the formation of farmer field schools, as this is an innovative approach that groups farmers together in order to increase the coverage of extension service delivery,” said Zyambo.
Mpeza Phiri, 49, a single mother of six living in the Luamba Agriculture Camp in eastern Zambia, says because of this initiative, her family now has a steady and stable income for the first time in their lives. As a result, the family now owns 10 goats and counting.
Now when a crisis hits, farmers like Mpeza and Sylvia have greater savings and equity.
Charity Lungu, a mother of four who lives in the same agriculture camp as Mpeza, has been able to support her family of 10 after selling some goats. Before, Charity says, her children would go to school hungry. Income from the goats has allowed her to afford uniforms and books for her children.
“They are now able to focus on school, not on hunger,” says Charity.
Approximately 90% of Zambia’s rural population depends on rain-fed agriculture for a living, making them highly vulnerable to more extreme weather associated with climate change, agricultural experts say.
African News Agency (ANA)