The Simalaha Conservancy is situated in the heart of the Barotse Kingdom. It used to be part of a wildlife corridor, where animals would migrate between Botswana and Kafue National Park in Zambia. However, the wildlife has largely disappeared from this area and it has been damaged by slash and burn agriculture. The good news is that the people in the community (led by their Senior Chief Inyambo Yeta of the Sesheke District and Chief Sekute of the Kasangula District) have a strong desire to restore the natural landscape and bring wildlife back into the region.
Farmers in the area currently engage in slash and burn agriculture and farm mainly maize. Maize provides relatively low incomes though and is very difficult to grow in such a climate sensitive landscape. With the growing population, slash and burn methods require more and more land and it is becoming increasingly challenging to sustain current agricultural incomes without turning natural areas into farm fields.
The local community has already taken steps to restore the natural balance with the help of NGOs such as the Peace Parks Foundation. If you’re interested in finding out more you can watch SABC’s 50/50 programme on the area. Peace Parks has already supported the community in bringing back giraffe, zebra and other animals into a conservancy area. For expansion of the natural landscape, it is critical that people and nature find a productive balance and this means they must work together in harmony. Peace Parks already took a vital step in this process, training over 1000 farmers in sustainable agricultural practices, called “conservation agriculture”. At Grounded we are aiding this vital process by bringing together a group of committed large and small-scale farmer and area experts.
Together we are finding alternatives to maize that are more sustainable, where value can be added through agricultural processing, and better markets can be found. The goal is to increase the income of farmers and thereby make regenerative farming practices even more rewarding.
In 2018 we kicked off our first production cycle with groundnuts (peanuts). Groundnuts are a familiar crop in the Simalaha and do wonders for soil health with their nitrogen fixing abilities. Still, they were not widely grown since farmers struggle to access a competitive market. We are developing the groundnut value chain for the produce grown by Simalaha farmers. Indigenous plant products and other well suited, high value crops are also in the pipeline as we continue to explore this area.