UK pledges £6m to train Zambian farmers in adapting to climate

Farmers will be shown how to rotate and diversify crops, as well as more efficient use of irrigation

Local farmer Kaunga Ngoma looks at his maize field affected by drought in Mazabuka, Southern Province, Zambia, on March 20. EPA
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Zambian farmers are set to be trained in “climate-smart agriculture” techniques to reduce deforestation after the UK pledged £6 million ($7.7 million) to local projects in the country.

The country will use the funds on efforts to curb rapid agricultural expansion into forests and woodlands, help to protect nature and cut emissions from deforestation that contribute to climate change.

Farmers will be shown how to rotate and diversify crops, and use more efficient irrigation to prevent clearing of forests for agriculture and improve food security.

It will also support the planting of trees alongside crops in a practice known as agro-forestry, which can protect food plants from rising temperatures, provide wood and store carbon.

It will enable 100,000 smallholder farmers to be trained in the climate-smart practices at 200 new “farmer field schools”, to reduce poverty and strengthen people’s resilience to climate change.

Farmers will also receive access to digital technology such as a new app providing climate updates to help them cope with changing weather patterns, suggesting optimum times for planting or harvesting crops.

The investment is part of the BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes, a global programme to support projects that reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainable land use and conservation of forests.

Officials said the funding was on top of more than £115 million it had already provided to the scheme since 2013.

It was part of the UK’s efforts to protect and restore nature and tackle climate change, building on the deal at Cop26 in Glasgow to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030.

"We can’t tackle climate change without protecting nature, which is why we are committed to helping other countries, such as Zambia," British Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho said.

“The destruction of forests across the world accounts for around 10 times the emissions of the UK – so we must do everything we can to safeguard our environment for future generations.”

The initiatives backed by the funding could cut Zambia’s emissions by around three million tonnes, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said.

It builds on the African country’s work under the programme so far, which includes 190,000 hectares now managed using climate-smart agriculture, 478 new farmer field schools, training 115,000 farmers and five million seedlings distributed for agroforestry.

“The programme has helped us diversify into new areas of farming, such as bee keeping and fish farming, enabling us to lessen our dependency on seasonal crops that are affected by droughts and other effects of climate change," said Chief Nyamphande of Nyamphande Chiefdom in Eastern Zambia, a community that has benefited from the programme.

“It is gratifying that the programme is getting additional funding from the UK, as its continuation is vital for the sustainability of the progress we have made in adapting to smarter, climate-sensitive agricultural practices in our province.”

Updated: March 24, 2024, 9:07 AM