In the southern province of Zambia, the people of Haanamoonga village together with their village Headman is working hard to regenerate the river catchment and landscape they depend on. Haanamoonga is one of 117 villages under Chief Chona, located in the eastern part of Monze district. The area has an estimated population of 70,000 people, who are mostly Tonga people, the first Bantu group that settled in Zambia. The Tonga people are known to be hard-working farmers and have a strong culture and connection to the land. The area that the Haanamoonga community wants to regenerate is about 300 hectares in size and lies on a plateau bordered by the Zambezi escarpment and Lufuwe river catchment. The community depends on the Kapande river catchment for their livelihood. The area is bounded by the Magoye river and is on plateau on the edge of the Zambezi valley.
Regional Schools and Colleges Permaculture (ReSCOPE) is a regional organisation that works closely with SCOPE Zambia to support this community initiative. A number of other local institutions such as the traditional leadership, local government, agricultural extension services, schools, radio stations, farmer training centre as well as other community based organisations are supportive of the initiative.
Two of the village Headmen have been introduced to permaculture and they were so impressed that they asked for support to transform their environment in a similar way.
This community feels an urgency as there are high levels of food and nutrition insecurity with child stunting standing at over 45%.
Since the area is drought-prone and has been extensively deforested, the community experiences a shortage of water as well as pollution of their water sources. Cultivation on stream banks are also having an impact on communal water sources. Soil erosion silts up the river and seasonal steams. All of this means that surface water is becoming increasingly scarce and polluted.
The expansion of cultivated areas into land that has traditionally been used for pasture is creating a conflict of interest. The community is in a drought prone area and the land has been degraded through poor land husbandry practices that led to erosion and killing of the soil. These challenges are common across Zambia and it was decided to work with this community because of the vision of the Headmen to implement permaculture in his village.
The community has a vision to see a productive and regenerated landscape that is teaming with biodiversity and which supports a vibrant self-reliant and resilient community. The community is working towards transitioning family farms towards regenerative farming practices and to reforest both the farms and the communal lands. They realise that changing their land use practices will support the retention of water and soil which will enable the landscape to be transformed and restore biodiversity, food and nutrition security for their families.
The broad strategy is to share the vision for a regenerative future with stakeholders in the area and to build up a resource team that guides the process going forward while working with the local governance structures. The resource team organised and facilitated community dialogues that brought out the relevant issues and established a baseline. They integrated the participatory mapping processes as part of the participatory action research (PAR) with the integrated land use design (ILUD) process and also introduced the concept of ecovillages to support their understanding of resilience. This was followed by a participatory design process that mapped out the interventions to be implemented.
More specifically ReSCOPE moved quickly in introducing agroecological practices that bring about quick results in order to encourage farmers to stay engaged in the process. The resource team organised training in making bokashi and other biofertilisers to support farmers in the enrichment of their soil.
They also focused on reviving lost seeds and shared high quality foundational seed with the farmers. Sanitation was improved with the construction of composting toilets; health was improved with the construction of fuel-efficient rocket stoves and the establishment of rain water harvesting infrastructure improved access to clean water.
A youth cooperative group was formed and registered to help young people establish a social enterprise and to encourage participation. An ILUD workshop was held at the local school and a plan developed for the school to improve the school grounds.
Community members are slowly taking ownership, constructing rain water harvesting swales, rehabilitating roads so run off water can be harvested, building small check dams along the steams. An old abandoned well had water for the first time in many years. Local seeds are being adopted again and multiplied and farmers increasingly use organic fertilisers.
The sense of community is slowing growing and the level of trust is building up.