Poor farming practices such as residue burning has led to rapid soil nutrient depletion in the eastern province of Zambia. Destruction and fragmentation of forests has resulted due to a general lack of participatory and coordinated land use planning and forest management.
The COMACO Landscape Management Project (CLMP) aims to promote sustainable agriculture and forest conservation. The project stretches across nine chiefdoms in five districts in the Eastern Province of Zambia, namely: Chikomeni (Lundazi district); Chikuwe (Mambwe and Chipata districts); Jumbe (Mambwe, Chipata and Lundazi districts); Luembe (Petauke district); Magodi (Chama and Lundazi districts); Mwasemphangwe (Lundazi district); Mwape (Petauke and Nyimba districts); Nyamphande (Nyimba and Petauke districts); and Zumwanda (Lundazi district).
The main objectives of the project are two fold: to sustainably increase smallholder farmer crop yields, income and welfare; and to reduce uncontrolled forest loss and degradation, and increase net forest cover. The project thus, comprises of two components: 1. Sustainable Agricultural Land Management (SALM) component – which aims to promote widespread adoption of agricultural practices that increase food production per unit area and farmers’ income. Under SALM practices, the project promotes the adoption by farmers of legume-based alley cropping, residues management (e.g. mulching; cessation of residue burning), and reduced tillage, on 6,793 ha of agricultural land; and 2. REDD+ (Avoided Unplanned Deforestation) component – which aims to reduce forest loss, and protect and expand areas under natural forest, and conserve biodiversity. This is achieved primarily through land use planning and creation of Community Conservation Areas (CCA), coupled with sustainable non-extractive forest use, e.g. honey and mushrooms, on 210,305 ha.
The COMACO Landscape Management Project uses market incentives – where farmers in those communities that implement sustainable agriculture and adopt land use practices that promote forest and wildlife conservation receive premium prices. It also uses land use planning with traditional leaders and communities to identify and zone areas for conservation and forest management known as Community Conservation Areas (CCA). A Community Conservation Plan (CCP) is developed and implemented for each CCA – including activities for sustainable forest management, and rules regarding forest management. The project is currently in the pipeline of the Verified Carbon Standard projects.
Activities under this project will result in increased and sustainable agricultural production, and forest conservation. GHG emission reductions will be generated through improved carbon storage on farms, and avoidance of mosaic deforestation mainly from unplanned agricultural land conversion. By applying the COMACO farmer cooperative approach, participating groups of farmers are sensitized, mobilized, registered and trained on a range of these practices. The farmers ultimately choose which practices to adopt, and receive further training and guidance on the same.
Photo credit: Katie O'Gara