Admittedly, the last blog post was a bit depressing. Smallscale farmers struggle a lot in drought years with the 2018-2019 season being particularly harsh especially in southern Africa. However, the meetings with other women’s cooperatives helped us witness resilience, creativity, and motivation.
For instance, the interview with the Mulima Women’s Cooperative on the outskirts of Kafue town truly delighted us. They were a well-organized, punctual group who clearly had thought of every method of livelihood diversification. To illustrate, they divided their cooperative into six “zones” with each zone focused on a different income-generating activity. The women in each zone would work together on this income-generating activity. For example, one zone focused on chicken (broiler) production, another on village banking, another on cross-border trading from South Africa (where they would buy bulk goods at discount prices and re-sell them in their community)…and the list goes on!
When asked about their vision and what else they wanted to do, we eagerly awaited their answer because it seems they had already thought of everything! But, no, they still had ideas. They wanted to start a goat business, expand their broiler production, and launch a laundry business where they would hand-launder clothes from the residents in their area. Their answers subtly showed a keen business intuition. In agricultural development, we know that animal rearing requires relatively less technical assistance but generates higher income as compared to most crops. Also, it is important to diversify incomes stream to counter seasonal incomes. With regards to the laundry business, the client demand would be relatively consistent year round which meant that they would have a source of back-up income in case of crop failure.
"How can we even manage in harsh seasons? There was no rain last year!"
Regardless of the savviness of these women, they expressed the same challenge faced by many other southern African farmers: the 2018-2019 drought. It was exceptionally bad. Some farmers barely harvested any maize – maybe just two buckets from half a hectare. The wells dried up earlier. Less rainwater was harvested. How could they be resilient in the face of climate change? Obviously, the answer is complex but we’re here to help.