Rose Kawanambulu, 61, looks after five orphans on her own. Like so many in rural Zambia, she relies on her crops to provide for her family and to pay fortuition to send one of her children to a nearby teaching college. Recently, Rose planted maize near her village only for it to be flooded by heavy rains, devastating their source of both food and income.
Annual flooding is commonplace in Zambia, but in recent years, the floods have been both unpredictable and amplified. While Zambia’s economy is growing steadily, agriculture accounts for approximately 20 percent of Zambia’s GDP. Therefore, crop failure can have catastrophic implications on the 80 percent of Zambia’s workforce who count on it for income.
Tolessen this risk, Concern is giving vulnerable women farmers like Rose seeds have the tools and skills they need to better protect crops from future droughts and floods. The disaster risk reduction (DRR) program, funded by the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), teaches farmers how to restore their soil and diversify their crops to not only provide better nutrition for their families, but also give them a surplus to sell at local markets.
“Reaching marginalized groups and implementing programs at the required scale to alleviate poverty is a challenge: our human and financial resources are stretched to capacity,” said Rakesh Katal, Concern Worldwide Country Directorin Zambia. “But we have evidence of what works – and we know that adequate investment in interventions in nutrition, livelihoods and agriculture would significantly reduce poverty and hunger.”
At the community-level, Concern set up natural resource committees and natural resource “user groups” who work with local state officials to make sure preventative measures, like canal cleaning, are taken to prevent flooding. Concernalso established disaster management committees who also take measures to protect their communities from droughts and floods.
So far,125,000 rural poor families across Mongu, Kaoma and Senanga districts in Zambia’s Western Province have received the tools and skills they need to better safeguard their harvests. And the results are already startling: following Concern’s training and infrastructure improvements, crop yields in targeted communities have doubled.
“We face significant obstacles, but I see signs of progress and momentum every time I visit a farming village,” said Katal. “I know that what we’re doing works when a farmer shows me how his harvest and income have improved, and when a person living with HIV is no longer is isolated because she has access to support groups and a source of income to live a healthy and productive life. I have seen communities minimize their vulnerability to disasters, and begin to view themselves as participants in development, rather than as passive recipients.”