MEMORY MANINGA, Lusaka
LYING south-west of Lusaka, on the Lusaka-Livingstone Road and on the south-east edge of the Kafue Flats wetland, Mazabuka town is known for its Nakambala sugar plantation hence the nickname ‘the sweet town.’ Mazabuka is a relatively prosperous town.
Of course the socio-economic activities in the district are mainly driven by the cultivation of sugarcane with sugar refining also dominating.
Apart from the Nakambala Sugar Plant which has employed much of the population in the district, some people in the area depend on other activities such as agriculture, livestock and charcoal burning for survival.
However, due to the improper manner these activities have been conducted over the years, the landscape of Mazabuka has slowly degraded making the area prone to climate change.
And soil fertility has also reduced as farmers have continued practising harmful agricultural practices such as growing of the same type of crop on the same piece of land yearly.
Solidaridad, a Dutch civil society organisation whose objective is to work towards enhancing agricultural sustainability to achieve efficient supply chain of agricultural products throughout the world, has identified these problems.
Recently, Solidaridad Zambia in partnership with Mazabuka Municipal Council, launched the Sustainable Landscape Management programme (SLM) in Mazabuka district.
The five-year pilot project has been designed to educate Mazabuka residents on best practices to undertake while engaging in various life- sustaining activities.
However, the project does not only seek to attain environmental protection, it also seeks to ensure that settlers are able to sustain their livelihoods using the new practices they are being taught.
Minister of Water, Sanitation and Environment Lloyd Kaziya said at the launch that land management plays an important role in the economic and social development of the country.
Mr Kaziya said government is aware of the devastating effects of climate change and thus advocates against bad practices that promote negative impacts of climate change.
In a speech read on his behalf by the ministry’s assistant director for water development, Simon Kang’omba, Mr Kaziya said without proper land management, the country’s food security and wealth creation are at risk. It is therefore important that land and water resources in the country are handled prudently so as to preserve them for future generations.
Former First Lady Christine Kaseba Sata was also in attendance and observed that land degradation is not just a problem for government alone but for everyone and that there is need to help government.
Dr Kaseba said Mazabuka has serious land degeneration effects putting lives at risk and this can continue if sustainable landscape management is not applied in the area, according to the Solidaridad Zambia blogspot.
“The former first Lady added that pressure on land and water in Mazabuka was seriously increasing and that there was need to realize that the population was also increasing. She also observed that climate smart interventions are of high priority to maintain a sustainable landscape and will require concerted efforts.
“Dr Kaseba further said that there was need to remember that depletion of land resources is considered to be a sustainable development issue as it has the potential to impact the needs of the future generation hence the various stake holders have a duty to think of solutions to protect the future generation such as the Sustainable Landscape Management being implemented by Solidaridad.”
Meanwhile, Solidaridad country manager Angela Mulenga says that her organisation is lobbying farmers to engage into conservation farming in a bid to preserve soil fertility. At the same time, Solidaridad is lobbying for farmers to engage into crop rotation as a way of promoting agricultural diversification.
The organisation is concerned with the over-grazing of livestock area that has caused excessive soil degradation. It believes that if the situation is left unchecked, Mazabuka district may become more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
“We’re in the communities of Mazabuka district advocating for farmers to get into sustainable ways of farming such as conservation farming and crop rotation,” she says. “We are also teaching livestock farmers that they should not misuse the grassland in the area through over-grazing their animals as this practice promotes soil erosion.”
The sustainable land management programme is also targeting charcoal burners in an attempt to convince them to move away from depending on charcoal burning for survival. But to ensure that this is achieved, the organisation is working with other stakeholders such as Fish Farm, a Lusaka—based organisation involved in commercial fish farming, to provide settlers with alternative means of survival.
The third year of the project will see settlers in the area being provided with skills and resources to enable them to venture into alternative means of survival.
“For a long time now, the indiscriminate cutting down of trees has not been controlled,” Ms Mulenga says. “This is because people do not have alternative means of survival; that is why in the third year of this project, other stakeholders are coming on board to provide alternatives to the settlers.”
Mazabuka town clerk Wisdom Bwalya, who spoke on behalf of the mayor at the launch, said he was happy that out of the over 187 districts in the country, Mazabuka was chosen to be a pilot project for the sustainable land management programme.
Mr Bwalya indicated that Mazabuka Municipal Council would work hand in hand with the organisation in a bid to achieve sustainable land management in the district.
“Because of its sugar plant, Mazabuka town contributes to the growth of the country’s economy but this will be increased with increased agriculture productivity and other activities that will come with sustainable land management,” Mr Bwalya said.