By Jonas Miselo
Climate change, a phenomenon driven by human activities, has emerged as one of the most pressing challenges of our time. Characterized by rising global temperatures, extreme weather events, and shifts in ecosystems, climate change is a threat to the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants. It poses unprecedented challenges to the agricultural sector, threatening global food security and intensifying environmental degradation. In response to these challenges, a transformative approach known as Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) has emerged.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), CSA is defined as an approach that helps guide actions to transform agriculture and food systems towards green and climate-resilient practices. CSA is not just a set of practices but a comprehensive strategy that integrates sustainable farming techniques, resilience-building measures, and adaptation strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
A senior extension methodologist at the Ministry of Agriculture in Luapula Province, Hobab Mumbi has emphasized the significance of CSA techniques in helping farmers adapt to ever-changing weather patterns.
In an exclusive interview with NAIS, Mr. Mumbi shed light on the prevailing weather conditions in Luapula Province, characterized by the onset of rains.
He stressed that this climatic factor is important for the successful planting and growth of crops. However, he also highlighted the potential challenges posed by delayed or erratic rains, which can result in planting difficulties and, ultimately, reduced crop yields.
Among the key challenges faced by farmers due to weather conditions, Mr. Mumbi identified droughts, floods, and unpredictable weather patterns. To counter these challenges, he recommended a set of adaptive strategies for farmers.
“To adapt, farmers can use drought-resistant crop varieties, improve irrigation methods, and diversify their crops to be less reliant on a single type,” he said.
On climate-smart agriculture techniques, Mr. Mumbi explained that these practices involve sustainable approaches that take climate change into account. Such techniques encompass strategies like crop rotation, agroforestry, and water management methods, which aid farmers in adapting to shifting weather patterns and improving overall crop yields.
Furthermore, Mr. Mumbi clarified on specific practices and strategies that farmers can implement under the umbrella of climate-smart agriculture. “These include the adoption of rainwater harvesting, soil conservation, and integrated pest management, all of which can effectively mitigate the adverse effects of unpredictable weather on their crops.”
Matthews Ndakasha, who is a senior agricultural officer at the Ministry of Agriculture in Samfya district, also highlighted the recent focus of training efforts by the Ministry on CSA and post-harvest handling technologies with partners such as the Transforming Landscapes for Resilience and Development Project (TRALARD).
This initiative, led by frontline staff including camp extension officers and block extension officers in agricultural blocks and camps, aims to empower farmers with practical skills and knowledge to address the challenges posed by climate change.
“Our consistent message revolves around encouraging farmers to adopt conservation agriculture practices. One crucial practice is residue retention, where farmers preserve biomass in the field after harvesting, acting as mulch and improving soil fertility over time. Our frontline staff conducts hands-on demonstrations, providing farmers with practical skills in residue preservation and mulching,” Mr. Ndakasha added.
“The training also covers crop rotation, emphasizing a three-year cycle involving deep-rooted crops, legumes, and cereals. This not only enhances soil conservation but also contributes to soil improvement. Diversifying crops strategically addresses nutrient needs and reduces the risk of soil degradation,” he highlighted.
“Water harvesting techniques are a key component of our training, urging farmers to create basins. This proactive measure enables farmers to collect and store water during limited rainfall periods. The harvested water becomes a valuable resource during dry spells, ensuring optimal growth for crops even in challenging weather conditions,” he emphasized.
Mr. Ndakasha’s insights underscore the practical and hands-on nature of the training programs, aligning with the broader goal of climate-smart agriculture. By equipping farmers with the skills to implement these techniques, he says the Ministry of Agriculture aims to enhance the resilience of local farming communities in the face of unpredictable weather patterns, ultimately contributing to sustainable agricultural practices and food security.
Addressing the TRALARD Project’s training of 1,300 farmers in Chifunabuli district, Mr. Mumbi stressed that such training is not only beneficial but also critical for ensuring food security and improving the livelihoods of local communities.
In terms of future collaboration with the Ministry, Mr. Mumbi recommended a closer partnership between the TRALARD Project and the Ministry of Agriculture. “This entails sharing data, insights, and effective coordination to align with government policies and initiatives related to agriculture and climate resilience,” he stated.
Additionally, Mr. Mumbi delved into ways in which the TRALARD Project can collaborate with local farmers and communities to guarantee the successful implementation of climate-smart agriculture techniques.
He advocated for the active involvement of local communities in the planning and decision-making process, provision of training and essential resources, and the facilitation of knowledge sharing among the local population.
In conclusion, Mr. Mumbi reiterated the pivotal role of climate-smart agriculture techniques in assisting farmers in adapting to the shifting weather patterns. He emphasized the necessity of collaboration between organizations like TRALARD and local communities to ensure the realization of a resilient and food-secure future.
CSA supports reaching internationally agreed goals such as the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. It aims to tackle three main objectives: sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes; adapting and building resilience to climate change; and reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions, where possible.