As the world grapples with the climate crisis, Africa, responsible for just 4% of global carbon emissions, bears the brunt of its impacts. Growing up on a subsistence farm, I have witnessed firsthand how climate change has affected my community, from the rising costs of farming inputs to the depletion of once-abundant streams. The lack of support from local agriculture cooperatives has left many farmers struggling to make ends meet, forcing them to resort to costly subsidies that are not financially viable.
One solution that has been practiced by the Bemba people for generations is the Chitemene system. This involves clearing land for agriculture by cutting down trees, burning them, and using the ash as fertilizer on crops like maize, millet, and sorghum. Despite its impact on deforestation, the Northern region of Zambia, where the system is widely practiced, has consistently maintained low rates of deforestation as the trees are able to regrow. In this article, Mwenya will explore the benefits and drawbacks of the Chitemene system and its role in sustainable agriculture in Zambia.
The rise of local migration from the Southern parts of the country experiencing near arid conditions to the Northern parts has extended the rise in rates of deforestation in those areas. Unfortunately, many of these migrants lack knowledge of the successful forest preservation practices that the local people have implemented for generations.
Mitigating the high rates of deforestation in the country requires revisiting solutions such as clearing natural forests and replanting these areas with trees such as pine and eucalyptus. While these solutions may seem effective in the short term, they are not sustainable in the long run as natural forests are better absorbers of carbon compared to some of these exotic trees. Therefore, it is essential to explore more sustainable options such as agroforestry, which involves incorporating trees into farming systems, and community-based forest management, which empowers local communities to manage and benefit from their forests.
Additionally, making accessible financial and technological solutions that can help the local people care for the environment should be implemented across the board. This can include providing education and training on sustainable farming practices and offering incentives for using sustainable methods. Moreover, technology can play a vital role in mitigating the effects of climate change, such as monitoring and early warning systems for natural disasters and using renewable energy sources.
Finally, representation when it comes to tailoring climate change solutions is key to a carbon-neutral world. It is essential to ensure that the voices and perspectives of those most affected by climate change, such as farmers and vulnerable communities, are heard and incorporated into policy-making and decision-making processes. Only through inclusive and collaborative efforts can we work towards a sustainable future for Africa and the world.