Teaching small farmers how to compost may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about ways to help reduce poaching of rhinos and giraffes in Sub-Saharan Africa. But that’s just one of many strategies that COMACO is using to promote wildlife conservation in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley.
Zambia is home to some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife, including lions, hippos, antelopes, and giraffes. Unfortunately, loss of habitat and poaching threaten many of these animals: according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the number of giraffes in the wild has declined by 50 per cent in just the past decade.
While much of this poaching may result from greedy motives, some poaching is also the result of desperation. Zambia is a country with many small farmers: according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 72 per cent of Zambians work in agriculture. According to FAO, Zambia faces frequent problems with both flooding and drought.
According to the WCS, the reality is that “most families in the Luangwa Valley experience three to five months of chronic food insecurity. With few options available to support their families, these residents may turn to logging, illegal hunting, and slash and burn agriculture.”
WCS realized that in order to preserve wildlife in Zambia, it would need to improve food security and incomes for Zambia’s small farmers. Working with a number of other groups based locally in Zambia, the WCS helped to set up COMACO (Community Markets for Conservation).
COMACO is a non-profit company that helps to boost incomes for farmers in the Luangwa Valley region of Zambia. It mainly does this through its food-processing business, which creates value-added products such as peanut butter. COMACO teaches farmers techniques like composting and crop rotation that improve yields, and assists them in diversifying their crops to better withstand droughts and market downtowns. COMACO also connects farmers in the Luangwa Valley to regional markets, allowing them to get better prices for their goods.