Zambia is a developing country with a rapidly growing population but strained food supply. Like many other developing countries, Zambia depends on local food production. However, Zambia is known to have low crop yields with an average of 1.1 tons of maize (a significant commercial crop) per hectare compared to other cereals which yield between 2.5-4.5 tons per hectare in South and East Asia. Increasing crop production and conserving natural resources, while increasing the countries resilience to extreme weather events and climate change is a top priority for the Zambian government.
Since the 1990’s the Zambian government, Zambia’s Conservation Farming Unit (CFU), and the World Agroforestry Centre have been working to develop “evergreen agriculture” programs. Evergreen agriculture is the integration of trees into food crop production systems. This has been most evident in their agroforestry and conservation agriculture programs. Agroforestry involves integrating tree species that enrich soil, produce valuable bi-products, and increase crop yield. Agroforestry was shown to increase average yield of maize to 4.1 tons per hectare. Conservation agriculture uses trees and bushes to help fix nitrogen in the soil and maintain a high crop yield across multiple growing seasons.
Both approaches, though with different end goals, have proven successful but also require intense scale-up. Agroforestry has been implemented by 160,000 maize farmers though this still represents only 10% of the country’s maize growing land. Conservation agriculture has been implemented by more than 150,000 farming families but has room to grow.
Key factors affecting the success of the programs identified as necessary for continued growth by the Zambian government, CFU, and the World Agroforestry Centre include: