The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is piloting a programme to integrate forestry into farming in a bid to halt deteriorating soil fertility arising from rapid deforestation in Zambia.
The programme, targeting more than 24 000 farmers in Southern and North Western provinces, is being implemented in conjunction with a Swedish NGO, We Effect. “The high rate of deforestation in the two provinces has resulted in degraded soil fertility which poses a risk to the nation’s food security,” says Martin Sekeleti, regional coordinator for We Effect.
Data by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) shows that Zambia is losing forests at the rate of 250 000 hectares per year. The country has more than 44 million ha of forestry.
Sekeleti said integrating forestry with farming adds soil fertility and is a cash spinner for farmers. Inspired by the work of the late Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, the targeted farmers are being aided with planting indigenous trees. They also get technical advice.
“The uptake is encouraging and farmers can tangibly see the benefits of planting trees with improved soil fertility. They can also sell by-products of trees such as timber,” Sekeleti said. In North Western’s Mwinilunga district, farmers are using forestry products for timber, as an energy source and for bee-keeping, while Southern province’s Choma district saw high crop yields thanks to improved soil fertility.