By ROYDA CHONGO
THE Agricultural landscape in Zambia is dominated by smallholder farmers. This entails that a huge percentage of households benefit from primary agricultural activities within the smallholder sector.
Farming methods vary from conventional to organic. However, organic farming is critical to food security and nutrition.
Organic farming is an integrated farming system that strive for sustainability, enhancement of soil fertility while prohibiting the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
For this reason, Scaling Up Nutrition Technical Assistance (SUN TA) in partnership with the Government of Zambia is promoting sustainable organic agriculture for better nutrition.
“Sustainable Organic Agriculture is important because it provides an alternative farming system,” says Senge Zulu a Block supervisor of Kafue block in Kitwe under the Ministry of Agriculture on the Copperbelt province.
Mr Zulu narrates that SUN TA trained smallholder lead farmers in vegetable production using various methods in order to enhance their household income and nutrition status. He said the lead farmers later identified members of their communities and trained them as their follower farmers.
Mr Zulu narrated that the farmers in his block were now owning community and individual gardens.
He however stressed that the transition from conventional practice into more sustainable ways is a gradual process which is yet to be fully adopted by the smallholder farmers.
Mr Zulu was speaking in Kitwe District’s Kanfinsa Camp area where teams from the Copperbelt Provincial Nutrition Coordinating Committee (PNCC) and Kitwe District Nutrition Coordinating Committee (DNCC) undertook a backstopping exercise on the various activities under the SUN TA multi sectoral activities.
And SUN TA Kitwe District Manager, David Lungowe, said among other sectors, his organisation has been promoting community gardens in different wards to help households attain an independent nutrition status.
“The idea is that these gardens should be able to supply households with children under five years of age enough nutritious meals and sell the surplus to enhance their livelihood,” Mr Lungowe lamented.
He disclosed that the emphasis is not only in vegetable growing but also legumes and tubers.
Meanwhile, a lead farmer of Kanfinsa ward, Martin Kakoma, said he has been practicing organic farming and is able to feed his family and conquer malnutrition.
“We are happy to have SUN TA in our community,” said Kakoma, a grandfather of 23 among them under-fives. “My wife and I work in the farm to make a living and our grandchildren are now able to go to school healthy because of organic farming.”
And on managing pests, a follower farmer, Gladys Luhanga, 18, a mother of one, says farmers now practice crop rotation and companion planting.
“We grow different crops on the same land in an orderly sequence in order to boost the number of natural insect enemies on the land,” Luhanga narrates.
For spraying, she explained that they either use organic pesticides made from naturally occurring substances or self-made mixtures using organic chemical compounds, which she says are both safe for organic farming.
SUN TA has continued with its quest to help reduce stunting among children under the age of five, especially those within their first 1,000 days of life. The project is educating families in its target districts about health and balanced diets and organic farming is the only way to feed children healthy foods. -NAIS
By ROYDA CHONGO