By Dominic Chandiwila Nali
The impacts from climate change are happening now and they extend beyond an increase in temperatures affecting the ecosystems and communities in Zambia and beyond.
In Luapula province, a Community Based Irrigation Development Project (E-COBSI), a project funded by the Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) is helping farmers with knowledge in small scale Irrigation in Luapula, Northern and Northwestern province.
The project is aimed at increasing knowledge, access to improved Agricultural practices, improved nutrition, improved water resource management, access to the market and increased income.
Through capacity building of Senior Agriculture Officers, Technical Service Branch Officers and Camp Extension Officers.
This is with the view of ensuring that the trained officers pass on the skills and knowledge to community members in small scale irrigation farming activities that will sustain farmer’s livelihoods at individual, household and community levels.
Speaking during the official opening of the 2020 Evaluation Training Workshop held at Mansa Farm Institute, Principal Agriculture Officer Osbet Hamweete urged all officers to use the evaluation workshop and the knowledge acquired from the E-COBSI to change farmers’ livelihoods in Luapula province.
He said the Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) and the Zambian Government have pumped in a lot of resources in the E-COBSI project just to ensure that the project yields the needed results amongst the community in the province.
“The Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) has put in a lot of resources into the E-COBSI project and there is need to apply more efforts that will impact the community”. “We must not allow such big and important projects to become white elephants 10years later”, said the PAO.
Mr. Hamweete said the knowledge gained should also increase adoption levels of new farming technologies being implemented among the small scale irrigation farmers under the Expanded Community–Based Smallholder Irrigation Development Project (E-COBSI).
And speaking at the same function, Senior Irrigation Engineer Mayson Saila said the workshop is meant to assess the progress and ascertain whether the targets set in the 2020 by the 8 districts that are implementing the E-COBSI project were achieved or not.
Mr. Saila said the evaluation workshop is also to highlight the challenges to help iron out challenges the farmers are facing in the irrigation sector and find means of resolving them so that farmers maximize production and earn enough income throughout the year.
“As officers, we need to encourage our officers to sensitize our farmers that irrigation is always the best option as it allows the farmer to control the water and have good yields compared to rain fed crop production”, Saila said.
The Senior Irrigation Engineer said with the devastating effects of climate change, small scale irrigation farming is the way to go as farmers can grow crops and make money throughout the year.
He says government through the Ministry of Agriculture is doing everything it can to assist small scale irrigation farmers in the province so that they can become self-sustaining using the COBSI model.
With the inflow of climate change projects such as Transforming Landscapes for Resilience Development (TRALARD) a lot in the irrigation sector is expected to change the farming landscape for better.
Economic benefits are not the only motivation for the support from these projects being implemented, the goal is to create a platform for farmers to become self-sustaining and avert poverty.
Infrastructure and Hydraulic Principal Irrigation Engineer, Alex Kabwe, says irrigation is one of the factors that can help farmers reduce the overdependence on rain fed crops among the farmers in the country.
Mr. Kabwe said beside the Transforming Landscapes for Resilience Development (TRALARD) which has taken interest in weir and lining of canals using concrete, Japan will soon start implementing a project called F-COBSI.
“F-COBSI is also underway and it will cover all the ten provinces of Zambia for the period of 5 years”, he said.
Mr. Kabwe said for the project to be implemented effectively and have a lasting impact, vehicles, motor cycles will be bought and fuel to be provided for the project period in all the ten provinces.
During the evaluation workshop, Mwense district also presented its report on the performance of the project in the district.
Lovemore Mukwanje, the Technical Officer Irrigation in the Ministry of Agriculture in Mwense district says the lesson learnt are that farmers have taken up the business approach SHEP in their farming techniques.
He says the SHEP approach has allowed a farmer to carry out market research before they grow any crop.
“This market research or analysis allows the farmers to know the types of crops on demand and the time these crops fetch higher prices at the market”, said Mukwanje.
Mr. Mukwanje said the approach has added value to the concept of farming as a business because once farmers have understood the market demands and needs, that’s when they grow their crops as per demand and needs.
During the two-day evaluation workshop, Officials from JICA also participated in the Evaluation Training Workshop virtually and emphasized the need for Officers in the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure that farmers are trained to produce crops for the market and food security at individual and household levels.
By Dominic Chandiwila Nali