The Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union in partnership with Norad through SACAU is implementing a Climate Smart Agriculture(CSA) advocacy program, Advocating for the adoption of CSA on a wide scale in Zimbabwe
ZFU has identified climate change as one of the major challenges impacting on the development of farmers in Zimbabwe and has been directly involved in the implementation of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) initiatives. With support from Norad through SACAU, ZFU has successfully implemented a Conservation Agriculture (CA) program in six of the country’s districts. ZFU designed innovative ways for scaling up the uptake of CA and managed to reach out to more than 8000 farmers within a period of 4 years. It is against this background that ZFU was selected as a partner in the current project. The Union will also act as a learning centre for other farmers organisations in the region.
The project seeks to advocate for conducive policies for wide scale uptake of CSA in Zimbabwe.
Rural economic transformation of countries in the region as is the case with most countries in Africa, is largely dependent on the development of the agricultural sector because more than 70 per cent of the population in the region relies on agriculture for livelihood. The sector provides best prospects for large-scale food security, economic development and poverty eradication. Unfortunately, the agricultural sector is the most sensitive to climate variability than any other economic sector. Consequently, climate variabilities are major threats to the livelihoods of millions of small scale farmers in the region. Small scale famers face a daunting task in adjusting their production systems to respond to climate change so that they maintain or increase their productivity. Large scale uptake of CSA in Zimbabwe will be the ultimate determinant of success and long-term sustainability of the solution.
CSA practices are among the promising technologies that could enable farmers to positively respond to climate change related risks. Where CSA methods are practiced, farmers can efficiently use natural resources through integrated land, soil and natural resources use and management. However, the rate at which CSA practices are adopted is impeded by cultural, social, political and economic bottlenecks that include; resistance of farmers to embrace any change due to entrenched practices; inadequate supporting national and local facilities available to farmers; inadequate information on available and successful CSA technologies, limited technical and policy support to farmers from private and public institutions, and poor knowledge and skills to utilise the technologies.
Adoption of CSA practices involves drastic adjustments of the current farming systems and farmers are always cautious of the implication of such changes. In some cases, the yield in the first years of transition from conventional to CSA systems are low and without adequate financial support provided during that period, farmers justifiably are reluctant to adopt the technology. Farming systems are also very complex to the extent that changing one aspect will result into unintended consequences elsewhere. For instance, farmers who have been practicing conventional systems of farming find it difficult to change to farming that entails minimum or zero tillage or practices that promote crop rotation and ground cover because these might have negative impact on raising livestock. In addition, some farming systems are embedded into the cultural practices of the society, making it difficult for farmers to change. CSA practices require relatively high levels of initial investments for inputs and equipment, thus, the poor smallholder farmers may not afford such investments, hence low rates of adoption.
Limitations in public policies and programmes also have an effect in the low adoption levels of CSA conservation methods. Without a favourable policy and investment environment to promote the private sector as well as farmers to invest in the technologies, it is difficult for farmers to adopt the technology.
This project will focus on addressing policy related bottlenecks that contribute to the challenges outlined above. It is envisaged that addressing policy bottlenecks will enable governments and other players to create an environment that will enable farmers to adopt CSA. Policy is critical in providing a framework within which people make investment decisions and allocate resources and can trigger widespread changes in a cost-effective way.
The intention at the end of the project is that Zimbabwe has appropriate policies and support mechanisms for the application of CSA technologies by most farmers. It is anticipated that through the adoption of CSA practices, farmers will be able to produce, increase food production and income generate.