In Simalaha Community Conservancy, which is situated in the Zambian component of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, people living in this rural area are taking ownership of their future through a community-led approach that aims to improve their well-being and support their livelihoods. One of the ways that this has been done is through the implementation of environmentally friendly farming techniques, or conservation agriculture, that aim to replace unsustainable, labour-intensive traditional methods that often lead to land degradation and poor crop yields. By adopting this practice, farmers are now reaping the rewards of healthy crops that bring food security and balanced nutrition whilst reducing the pressure on nature.

In 2021, Peace Parks Foundation has assisted in training over 1900 farmers and 350 contact farmers in conservation agriculture from communities living in Simalaha.  These contact farmers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to train other farmers and help them with any problems that they may face, such as failing or diseased crops, seed distribution or access to markets to sell their produce.

Brian Mulomba, the Simalaha Conservancy Assistant, is taking us along to a workshop with a group of farmers from the Sooka community. The aim of the workshop is to inform, educate and discuss the local agricultural hub that will soon be initiated in the area. By implementing nature-friendly farming methods and having a dedicated agricultural hub are important for the livelihoods of these communities as it provides a much-needed income for families when their crops yield more than what they can consume and they are able to sell that at the local markets. This enables a more sustainable future for both the communities and the wildlife as people are no longer solely dependent on natural resources. This aligns well with goal 11 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which aims to make human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

It is critically important that the community lead these programmes, and workshops such as this provides members with an opportunity to share ideas, voice concerns or ask questions to ensure that all interventions are not also suitable to their living environment but also culturally sensitive.

Simalaha is a shining example of how the coming together of a dedicated government, NGOs and communities can create a better future for people living in extremely rural areas, whilst protecting the natural environment.