On the border with Malawi, in the Lundazi District, Eastern Province of Zambia, deforestation is largely attributed to a dramatic increase in the cultivation of tobacco, cotton and maize. Unsustainable farming, logging for charcoal and fuel, as well as wildfires are also contributing factors to environmental degradation in the area. However, a strong community spirit, desire to learn about tree planting and the different uses of trees together with an aspiration to establish tree nurseries, encouraged the community to seek funding from ITF. This is how Revival NGO became an ITF partner and received a small grant from the Sustainable Community Forestry Programme. This project was made possible with sponsorship from Ina and David Stewart.
Bringing the community together for sustainable livelihoods
The project takes place in Chiwa village; directly involving 21 women and 5 men. They aim to plant 5,000 trees on poorly utilised land on their farms for their own benefit and that of the wider community. Small-scale farming is the most common source of income for rural communities in Zambia. However, crop yields are generally insufficient to provide enough food and income security to break the poverty cycle.
Introduction of the scheme within Chiwa village is aiming to address some of these wider socio-economic issues and intends to include capacity building, reduction of poverty in the area and increased sustainable livelihoods.
Today, agroforestry is a relatively novel idea in this part of Zambia. The Chiwa community have very little experience in establishing tree nurseries. However, it is an exemplary case of communities coming together and actively seeking innovative solutions. Halfway through the project, the participants have worked together to conduct soil sampling, set-up individual tree nurseries and purchase seeds and materials necessary for further work.
The trees behind the project
The project’s soil testing activities allowed farmers taking part in the project to evaluate the soil for the first time. This revealed crucial information about the health of their land. For example, 25 participating households found out about the need to increase nitrogen and potassium levels – information which will benefit the wider community.
This learning was taken on board by project leaders, with over 42% of the planting efforts incorporating legumes (e.g. Leucaena Lecocephala, Tephrosia vogelii or Sesbania sesban). Approximately 38% of the planned planting is a mix of various fruit trees, such as papaya, orange, mandarin, guava, mango, lemon and avocado, providing local communities with a diverse food supply, and economic opportunities from the sale of fruit and seed in the future. Other species to be planted are also recognised for their medicinal use (e.g. Azadirachta indica).
Progress, one step at a time
To date, project participants have established elevated tree nursery beds. This is to make caring and maintenance easier, but mainly to avoid growth of the roots into the soil directly below the polybags containing the saplings, which can lead to damage when the seedlings are moved for planting.
Agness Zimba, the Chairperson of the Katondo Women Club said: “The project of tree planting is the talk of the day in our community as we need to replace the trees that we are cutting all the time. We are grateful for this project and we will do our best to look after the trees and educate others in the community.”
Each farmer was given 200 bags to be filled with soil and planted with seeds. So far, the lemon and avocado trees have started germinating. The first part of the project training, aimed at increasing knowledge of various tree species, their uses and how to care for them, has also been delivered. Much more work is still needed before the project completion date set for the end of February 2018. This will involve additional training and tree planting sessions, with the main planting activities planned for the December- January, the rainy season.
A small community with big aspirations
More importantly, the far-reaching goal of the project is empowerment of women and youths through access to knowledge about various uses of different trees and skills necessary to care for them. Project staff already report increased interest from community members not directly involved in the scheme and believe that the establishment of tree nurseries and agroforestry fields can be used as demonstrations within the wider district community in the future.