AGROECOLOGY Offers A Robust Solution To Climate Change Crisis

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Zambia is projected to be most exposed to an increased risk of hunger due to climate change, however the adoption of an agroecological approach, can offer resilience to climatic changes for increased food security.
Zambia is projected to be most exposed to an increased risk of hunger due to climate change, however the adoption of an agroecological approach, can offer resilience to climatic changes for increased food security.

CLIMATE CHANGE is increasingly recognized as one of the major economic, environmental and social challenges of our time. Zambia, like many other countries in Africa is projected to be most exposed to an increased risk of hunger due to climate change.  

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (2021) indicates that, Southern Africa has been identified as a drought ‘hottest spot’ in Africa.  

By 2050, warming of just 1.2 to 1.9℃, well within the range of current IPCC projections, is likely to increase the number of malnourished in Africa by 25 to 95 per cent – 85 per cent in Southern Africa; and Zambia is among these misery figures. 

Earlier, these gloom statistical scenarios appeared like speech-making or just a scientific study for the academic purposes at the named higher learning institution in the fulfillment to obtain a Master’s Degree in Climate Change and Sustainable Development Studies. 

However these figures are now speaking or translating into reality, among them the current prolonged droughts spell affecting the crop production in turn deteriorating the already existing food and nutrition insecurity.  

The prolonged dry spell affecting three provinces are threatening maize crops. Several provinces in Zambia, including Eastern, Southern, and Central are grappling with an extended dry spell, leaving many districts parched and posing a significant threat to maize crops. 

The dry conditions, attributed to the El-Nino phenomenon, have persisted for the last 30 days, affecting not only agricultural productivity, but also raising concerns about food security in the affected areas, yet hunger already affects 240 million Africans daily.

The current drought spell been experienced in Zambia, hopefully is now serving as a ‘learning centre’, to most Zambians and it is enough to worry the policymakers, donors and even the farmers themselves. 

“The scale of devastating of crops due to prolonged drought spell is worrying,” Dr. Gabriel Pollen, the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU)’s National Coordinator, laments.

A critical question is whether agroecology can promote climate change mitigation and adaptation outcomes without compromising food security. To this end, the food systems must generate a level of resilience equal to climate change’s impact on farmers. Today’s witnessed Zambian shocks highlight the urgent need to support the agroecology movement, as the climate change, economic downturn and widespread disease threaten Zambian food systems. 

Many people are unfamiliar with the term agroecology or its meaning; and it is important to clearly define the term “agroecology” as an African-people-centred social movement, a climate adaptation and mitigation strategy, and a solution to food insecurity. 

Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) defines, “Agroecology is a people-centred system of sustainable agriculture and a social justice movement driven by local farmers and other food producers to maintain power over their local food systems, protect their livelihoods and communities, and defend every African’s right to nutritious and diverse food.” 

AFSA’s General Coordinator, Dr. Million Bely further indicates, “Agroecological practices are inspired by core principles and have the immediate objective of building soil structure, improving soil health and recycling nutrients; conserving and using water efficiently; and sustaining and improving functional diversity over space and time.”

“In existence are some common practices which include: no or minimum tillage to improve soil structure and organic matter; mixed cropping; crop rotation; agroforestry; water harvesting; waste recycling and others,” AFSA’s General Coordinator,” Dr. Million Bely added. 

Walking the talk, Wilfred Miga, the Programme Officer at Participatory Ecological and Land Use Management (PELUM) – Zambia, explains how intercropping or mixed cropping is been practiced at his farm, as a climate adaption strategy, “Planting maize and beans together is called intercropping. It’s traditional farming practice that has many benefits.” 

 

Mr. Miga explains, “The tall maize stalks act as a trellis for the climbing beans, giving them support to grow. Meanwhile, the beans help enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen, which is beneficial for the maize. This practice also maximizes the use of space, allowing you to grow more crops in your farm. It’s a smart and efficient way to cultivate your plants. It’s a win-win situation.”

 

While, Lundazi District Agriculture Coordinator (DACO) Edward Hachuundu affirms, “And weeds are equally suppressed and moisture conservation is enhanced. Soil erosion is equally reduced since bare ground is reduced. If there is no burning after harvest, the soil texture is improved. We can intensify crop production on small pieces of land and avoid clearing huge tracks of land which would otherwise be used to capture carbon dioxide.” 

While industrial agriculture threatens local ecosystems and increases global greenhouse gas emissions, agroecological farms actively restore biodiversity, draw carbon out of the atmosphere and into the soil, and defend on-farm ecosystems from the floods, extreme heat and crop disease exacerbated by climate change.

KHUMBILO AgroEcology Media Services’ organic farmer, Joseph Banda in Lundazi District also explains from experience point of view, “Organic agriculture which is one of the agroecological practices can help combat global warming by storing carbon in the soil. Many management practices used by organic agriculture increase the return of carbon to the soil. This raises productivity and favours carbon storage.”

 

Swiftly, increasing the food system’s resilience through agroecology and diversification is an effective way to achieve climate change adaptation; and the evidence shows that agroecology resonates strongly with all the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. 

 

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