BENEDICT TEMBO, Gwembe
CONSTANCE Sandima is a happy and healthy farmer.
Ms Sandima of Hagwanama village in Chief Munyunbweâ€™s area in Gwembe district is happy because farming has become more profitable to her and the rest of the women in the area.
Ms Sandima and her colleagues who used to run out of vegetables and other foodstuffs during the drier months of the year, are now food secure most of the year.
They are now able to process vegetables such as cabbage, rape, tomato and pumpkin leaves which they eat throughout the year.
The women use solar to dry the vegetables for future consumption.
Ms Sandima and other women have also learnt how to bake cakes from cassava, carrot, millet, pumpkin and sorghum.
They are healthy because they have also learnt how to prepare balanced diets.
Ms Sandimaâ€™s village is part of the 60 womenâ€™s groups in Gwembe who have benefitted from climate smart agricultural techniques by the Programme Against Malnutrition (PAM).
PAMâ€™s climate smart agricultural techniques have improved the resilience of the womenâ€™s response to climate change, enhanced their incomes and livelihoods.
Ms Sandima, a mother of two, said PAM in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, has taught women conservation farming which has helped them increase their yields.
Instead of tilling the land, the women practice potholing which they do before the rainy season and when it rains, they plant.
Besides maize, they grow cowpeas, groundnuts and vegetables.
PAM has given the women, mobilised around cooperatives solar driers, meat-mincing machines. They have also been given treadle pumps to water their gardens.
Nelly Hampwaya, the chairperson of the Hagwanama Cooperative, said what women learn in groups is implemented at household level.
Ms Hampwaya said before PAM came on board, they used to run out of vegetables from around September until the next rainy season because by then, perennial streams would have run out of water for growing vegetables.
â€œThey [PAM] have taught us how to preserve food,â€ Mrs Hampwaya, the mother of six, said.
The women have also learnt to use the musangu tree as a manure supplement for their fields.
They also grow fruit trees such as oranges, paw paw, guavas which they received from PAM to have fruits throughout the year.
PAMâ€™s coaching has not just been restricted to food production and preservation. It has also introduced energy efficient clay stoves which use very little wood fuel.
Ms Hampwaya said PAM has also introduced village friendly fridges which help them keep things fresh.
â€œWe even process honey,â€ Mrs Hampwaya said proudly.
PAM has also helped Mrs Hampwayaâ€™s cooperative build a goat house.
Gwembe district agricultural coordinator Imbuwa Mushebwa said his officers have been training women groups in climate smart technologies to enable them have good yields even in the event that there is a drought.
â€œWe also provided them with goats as a way of improving their income, we are also provided three sets of motorised irrigation equipment to three women groups,â€ Mr Mushebwa said.
He said the programme is also promoting orange maize which is rich in vitamin A.
â€œSome women groups have been provided with solar driers to help them dry vegetables in a better way for consumption even when they are out of season,â€ he said.
Mr Mushebwa said women groups have been linked to restaurants to ensure they have market for their produce.
Cooperatives also participate in agricultural shows as a way of finding market for their produce.
Ms Hampwaya, whose group produced 51 bags of 50 kilogrammes of maize, said they share the profit at the end of every marketing season while the principle is retained to re-invest in the agricultural business.
While the women have been working hard to improve their lot, the dry spell in the 2014-2015 farming season has left them devastated as most of the perennial streams have dried up.
Ms Hampwaya appealed to government to help them by sinking boreholes as both human and animal life will be severely affected.
The intervention PAM is making in Gwembe is part of the Norwegian government-funded programme for food security and climate robust agriculture under the Expanded Food Security Pack (EFSP) launched in 2012.
It aims to bring some thousands of small-scale farmers and their families out of poverty and food insecurity to become self-sustained farmers producing a variety of crops.
The EFSP programme is a combination of social security with conservation agriculture which should lead to more production and higher incomes for participants.
It is a new and innovative programme, combining climate-adapted agriculture and poverty reduction, for increased food security to reduce poverty and hunger among beneficiary rural farming households in Zambia through increased agricultural productivity and social protection.
BENEDICT TEMBO, Gwembe