It’s the early hours of the morning. The rumble of distant thunder and close-by chirp of crickets is suddenly drowned out by the first drops of rain on the tin roofs. Soon the whole community in Zambia’s Mumbwa district are awake to the comforting sound of rainfall. Planting will start at first light.
After a prolonged dry spell the heavy rain is very welcome. Not everyone is optimistic, however. “The rainfall pattern has not been consistent. We could be headed for a repeat of last season” complains one farmer.
Southern Africa has experienced normal rainfall in just one of the last five growing seasons. Persistent drought, cyclones and flooding have wreaked havoc on harvests in a region dependent on rain-fed, smallholder agriculture.
Zambia is experiencing both climate extremes at the same time. Farmers in the south-western parts of the country are anxious about erratic and unpredictable rainfall patterns. In the north-east, they are battling flash floods.
It is unanimously agreed that the changes in Zambia’s weather patterns are caused by human-induced climate change, over-exploitation of natural resources and deforestation.
The group most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation are the poorest as they rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. The scale of the challenge facing poor rural communities feels overwhelming, but one pastor still has hope. Lawson Limao oversees a small network of Zambian churches called Word of God Ministries. “Where God is there is hope” he says.
One source of hope is the farming guides Lawson found APF’s eVitabu app. He uses eVitabu on his old Android smart phone. Using the guides on eVitabu and some funding from APF, Lawson trained around a hundred farmers last year. Despite Covid and lockdowns, the training went well, and more funding is heading to the church network so he can continue his training and reach many more farmers this year.
“The training I do I found on eVitabu” he explained. “On the app there are resources from Foundations for Farming and other experts which can help rural pastors and leaders do farming in new ways that are less sensitive to drought and look after the soil.
“God’s way is to preserve nature whilst making farming a profitable venture to undertake. This is what I love to talk about with pastors and their wives. The content of the training includes faithfulness and fruitfulness, farming for a profit, crop management techniques, composting, crop rotation and cover cropping.
“The programme I am doing with APF’s support in Mumbwa District is among the Ila people. This people group are mainly subsistence farmers and they have for some time been practicing conventional farming methods like ploughing. That has led to the poor soil structure and outright poverty despite God blessing them with adequate rainfall and land.
“It is my view that the training will benefit the community through the church to adapt to the new farming techniques. This will help improve their yields thus providing sustainable food security for their families and for church purposes whatever the changing weather brings.”