Farmers from the community of Rafael in Eastern Zambia have turned their lives around by converting to conservation farming. Together with 70 farmers ActionAid Zambia´s partner Nyimba District Farmers Association embarked on a conservation farming project three years ago. The project has two goals; to improve the livelihoods of the farmers in the area, who where not producing enough food to sustain themselves and to stop deforestation.
Elizabeth Daka is one of the farmers who has converted to conservation farming. She has experienced a huge improvement in her and her community’s livelihood:
“Before I had problems producing enough food to feed my family. I produced 24 bags of maize per year and we could only afford to eat once a day."
"We would run out of food by September. When our own grown food ran out we had to work on other people fields in exchange for food” explains Elizabeth Daka. Elizabeth Daka has five children. Her husband is polygamist community and has two wives.
“After I started using conservation farming I am producing around 150 bags of maize per year."
"Now we have food for the entire year and for sale. We are now eating three meals a day”
Elizabeth explains that she has now stopped using fertilizer but her field is giving her much more maize than before:
“Nyimba District Farmer Association has trained us in how to treat the soil and plant our seeds, so we can get much more from our fields. They have also showed us how to make our own manure. Now I do not buy fertilizer anymore, which means that I save money.”
ActionAid Zambia´s partner Nyamba District Farmers Association trained the community on the importance of increasing crop variety and together with the farmers they have been planting nitrogen fixing trees like acacia which are natural fertilizer. When conservation farming methods are applied the farmers can continue using the same fields for many years and they do not have to cut trees every season to make new fields. The farmers can produce much more from their fields than with the farming methods they were using before.
“Before the fields became bad after a couple of years and the maize would not grow. I had to move to a new field every year and I had to farm bigger fields. But now I am producing six times more. I cannot believe the change. Those of us who are using conservation farming are doing very well” says Elizabeth.
“This year I made 7 million kwacha/1400$. I have bought a motorbike and I am making bricks to build a new house with an iron roof”