By Norma Tsopo
HURUNGWE – Live fencing, rolls of acacia trees demarcating vegetable gardens, and an impressive variety of vegetables under crop, all betray farming methods uncommon in a rural community like Tashinga.
While most communities would chop down any standing tree near their crop, this community is intent on using the acacia trees and pod making trees that they also used as live fence to fix nitrogen in their garden.
“These trees are not in competition with our crops but they are actually nitrogen-fixers,” Media Chiyangwa the community garden’s chairperson noted. “We are using conservation farming methods as well as practising crop rotation for ensure that we get optimum yields through-out the year.”
The garden was set up by 31 women in 2012 and produces maize, okra, cucumbers, pumpkins, butternuts, onions, tomatoes and a variety of other green vegetable under irrigation from a nearby borehole.
“We have had invaluable agricultural training from Sustainable Agriculture Technology (SAT) and Foundation for Farming with the aid of Kariba REDD+ Project.
“We now know how to produce our crops without destroying the environment. None of our group members is dreaming of ever reverting to streambank cultivation. The income is good and the impact to the environment is negligible,” Chiyangwa said.
The group consumes some of its produce and markets and sells excess produce as a group and only shares the profits and only after allocating some of their income to charity.
“The garden helps our families meet our nutrition needs as well as allow us to buy stationery and pay fees for orphans as well as our own children,” Chiyangwa said.
The project is one of many that are being supported by Kariba REDD+ Project a Carbon Green Africa community driven initiative that is working on conserving forests and biodiversity along the Kariba valley belt mainly to act as a carbon sink whose carbon credits are then quantified and sold on the voluntary market and earn local communities income.
The project has two programs running under its Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards Gold Level programs – Climate Change Adaptation Benefits and Exceptional Biodiversity.
Gold Level criteria is awarded to projects that mitigate climate change, contribute to the sustainable development of local communities and biodiversity conservation says Carbon Green Africa CEO Charles Ndondo.
“Our primary objectives are to make our communities environmentally conscious and support the nation to preserve its forests and biodiversity which they can monetize through carbon credit sales,” Ndondo said.
Chief Chundu, whose area is part of over 785 000 hectares of forest ecosystems and benefitting up to 200 000 people that the project is covering, are his traditional leadership structure is supportive of the initiative.
“We are being helped to preserve our forests and assist our farmers adopt conservation farming practices,” Chief Chundu said.
Clever Chambwe an elderly farmer in Tugwe village is already expressing expert knowledge about conservation farming methods.
“We are planting using conservation farming methods. Conservation farming helps in conserving moisture and nutrients and generally assures us better harvests even when there is inadequate rain,” Chambwe said. “The use of organic fertilizer also helps us keep our farming costs low.”
Claud Adam who has not been using ploughs in his farming and has for three years now been enjoying good harvests throughout the country’s drought years is another beneficiary of conservation farming.
“My fertiliser is never washed away and when we compare to methods of ploughing that I grew up with this is bringing better yields,” Adam a village 24 B in Nyamakate said.
“My field is less than half a hectare and I managed to harvest 20 bags of maize during the drought that hit the country and I’m not so sure how much I will get this year but its promising to be good. Its only that the rains are a bit excessive now and we will need to add a little more fertiliser.”