Small scale farmers in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland Central province in Zimbabwe are set to benefit from a training project in sustainable agriculture practices to equip them with knowledge that will assist them in adjusting to changing climatic and agricultural conditions.
According to Tonderai Chikono, Funding and Partnerships Specialist for Development Aid from People to People (DAPP), the project organised community members into farmers’ clubs. The clubs are functioning as models and catalysts to organise rural small-scale farmers around production.
“They will showcase the power of rural farmers to live a positive and empowered life, one that serves as an example to others,” Chikono said.
He said DAPP is using its farmers’ club model to train 2,000 small-scale farmers in sustainable agriculture practices and to equip them with knowledge they can use to adjust to changing climatic and agricultural conditions.
As an integrated part of the training, the farmers are organised around exploring and sharing water resources, securing inputs, and marketing their produce. General knowledge and skills within nutrition, health and community development are included as essential components.
According to Chikono, the farmers’ clubs programme is a system of co-operation that empowers farmers to increase their production and improve their livelihoods.The farmers learn to execute conservation and organic farming methods, implement crop diversification on their own land and establish or increase vegetable production and garden farming.
Low-cost technology farming methods are introduced and farmers learn to sustainably utilise local water resources. Animal husbandry is also introduced to increase sources of protein based on sustainable sound methods of raising animals on crop waste. The farmers learn about budgeting, planning, measuring outcomes, and how to buy and sell cooperatively.
The UNEP funded Sustainable lifestyles among rural families in Zimbabwe: Small-scale conservation farming to change lifestyles in Africa and beyond project, aims at developing and replicating sustainable lifestyles. This includes low carbon lifestyles in rural Zimbabwe as a way of starting from the grassroots up to policy levels, bottom-up approach in mitigating the impact of climate change through carbon balanced smart agriculture.
The overall objective is to accelerate transition towards sustainable and low carbon lifestyles in Africa. Its specific objective is to promote and replicate sustainable farming, adaptation and mitigation to climate change in rural areas in Zimbabwe.
The project has been implemented by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement and has trained the project staff together with AGRITEX officers using the trainer of trainers approach in the use of EX-ACT as a decision making tool. The trained officers will champion the training of the 2,000 farmers and the use of the tool in everyday agriculture decision making.
The Ex-Ante Carbon-balance Tool (EX-ACT) is an appraisal system developed by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) providing estimates of the impact of agriculture and forestry development projects, programmes and policies on the carbon-balance.
Carbon-balance is defined as the net balance from all greenhouse gases (GHGs) expressed in CO2 equivalent, emitted or sequestered due to project implementation as compared to a business-as-usual scenario.
The tool helps project designers to estimate and prioritise project activities with high benefits in economic and climate change mitigation terms. The amount of GHG mitigation may also be used as part of economic analyses as well as for the application for additional project funds.
According to Chikono, by end of the training, participants were able to use the EX-ACT tool and were also able to understand the nexus between climate change and agriculture, explain the concept of a carbon balance, apply the EX-ACT tool for a simple application and to analyse and utilise EX-ACT results.
The training was covered over a five-day period per district which included Gutu and Mutasa in Masvingo and Manicaland provinces. The training was divided into six modules which included land use change, crop production and management, grassland and livestock, land degradation and inputs and further investments.
The modules also encompass the general description of the project such as geographic area, climate and soil characteristics and duration of the project, identification of changes in land use and technologies foreseen by project components using specific “modules” such as deforestation, forestation, forest degradation, annual/perennial crops, rice cultivation, grasslands, livestock, inputs, energy and the computation of C-balance.