From poverty to profit

Conservation agriculture provides options for drought affected farmers in Zambia

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Mother and smallholder farmer Finess Muziyamba from southern Zambia is using the agricultural training she received to feed her family and expand her business. Photo: WFP

When Southern Zambia was hit by a dry spell between December 2017 and January 2018, smallholder farmers saw their corn dry up and die.

But Finess Muziyamba, a single mother of eight, did not just sit and watch. Remembering what she had learned about crop diversification during conservation agriculture trainings, she decided to plant sweet potatoes.

“I used to have to beg from house to house to feed my children,” Finess recalls. It was only when she was introduced to the Mudumo Savings group supported by the World Food Programme (WFP)’s R4 Rural Resilience Initiative that her life took a turn for the better.

Investing an initial amount of US$ 5, Finess increased her savings, and by the time the dry spell hit Pemba district, she had raised US$ 85 from the savings group. At this point, she had to make a choice between re-planting corn and undertaking a different business venture.

“When I noticed the rains were erratic, I thought of what I had learned about conservation farming and decided to invest in sweet potato farming. I spent US$ 40 to buy the vines, which I planted in a total of 88 covering 1.5 hectares of land,” says Finess.

As she prepares to harvest her sweet potatoes at the end of May, Finess is excited about the US$ 1,500 she is expecting in proceeds. She is hoping to sell her crop to traders from neighboring Botswana at favorable market prices.

Her begging days are over. Finess can now proudly put food on the table for her family.

“The children can now go to school and I am able to venture into other businesses. This is all thanks to the profits from my work and the share income realized from savings group,” she says.

Savings groups reduce economic shocks among members. Women learn about financial discipline and how to make investment decisions, become leaders in their communities and participate with confidence in running their households.

Evidence shows that women have benefited the most from savings groups. Out of the 1,159 in 60 savings groups under the R4 resilience building project for smallholder farmers in Zambia, 692 are women.

With the sweet potato crop coming, Finess has plans for the future: she wants to build a brick walled house, invest the remainder of her money in more farming ventures and buy more shares in the savings group.

Written by Jacqueline Chishimba

Find out more about the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative or WFP in Zambia

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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