Protected Farm’s Project
Imagine, for a moment, living on the 4th largest river in Africa and struggling to irrigate your crops, watching them shrivel and die after the rains stop before they ripen, and knowing your kids won’t have anything to eat 6 months later as that will be your only crop of the year. This was a problem the people of the Lower Zambezi had not experienced before the World Bank built Kariba dam which stopped the annual alluvial flooding which ensured villagers of 3 crops a year. After the dam was built the farms only yielded one crop per year which was entirely dependent on reliable rains in the ‘green season’. At the time the dam was being built the World Bank promised all the small scale farmers downstream that they would assist them with their irrigation needs. This promise was not kept.
This is what confronted us when we first moved into the area: Climate change had exacerbated the situation created by the World Bank even further, as rains were no longer reliable. The consequence was that food shortages had become a regular occurrence. Now the farmers were confronted by marauding elephants and hippos whom they had co-existed with for centuries as there always was enough food for everyone, humans and wildlife alike.. that was no longer the case. Simultaneously pressure was on by conservationists to preserve the very animals that were destroying the subsistence of the farmers. Human wildlife conflict grew as the demand for ivory skyrockets. Elephants were seen as the enemy and were expendable when they were destroying your family’s crops. In order to engage community in conservation efforts their subsistence crops had to be protected. We felt the need to do something and the solution seemed obvious given the abundant sunshine of the area: solar irrigation / solar powered electrical fencing. DIA has now sponsored 6 protected farm projects. Four of these farms are protected by solar powered game fencing which is necessary to deter marauding elephants and hippos. All farms are irrigated by solar powered irrigation.
This system allows for pumping of approximately 20 000 litres per hour over a distance of 3.5km at two different sites, providing water year round. Irregular rains become inconsequential when solar irrigation is available. All DIA farms have drip irrigation so as to allow for effective water use, are fully organic and employ companion planting and composting techniques. Thus farms can be immediately profitable with no profits going towards fertilizer or costly pesticides. One farm is used solely as an experimental farm where we try out the different planting methods available to us. Once proven successful we transport to the larger more commercial farms.
The farms provide self-employment to over 200 villagers that not only have food security year round but cash crops as well. A first for Chiawa and a first for Zambia! Up to 4 crops are possible per year with solar irrigation.