Smallholder Farmers’ Responses to Rainfall Variability and Soil Fertility Problems by the Use of Indigenous Knowledge in Chipepo, Southern Zambia

  •  Kabwe Mubanga    
  •  Bridget Umar    


The study conducted in Southern Zambia investigated smallholder farmers’ use of indigenous knowledge to respond to rainfall variations and soil fertility problems. Farmer and key informant interviews and observations were employed to collect data. A total of 60 smallholder farmers and 6 key informants were interviewed. Chipepo lies in the low rainfall region of Zambia. Its upland area faces moisture stress and soil fertility problems compared to its valley areas located along tributaries of the Zambezi River. The annual flooding of the tributaries of the Zambezi River along the valley fields results in loss of crop yields. Farmers have responded to problems of low moisture in the upland fields and too much moisture in the river valley fields through crop diversification concentrated on three main food crops namely; maize, sorghum and bulrush millet. These differ not only in their moisture requirements but also in maturity periods. Drought tolerant early maturing crop varieties and off-farm activities enhance their resilience. Maize was planted in river valley fields due to its high water requirements while drought tolerant sorghum and millet were planted on upland fields. The farmers’ knowledge of particular flowering plants helped forecast the onset of rains for purposes of early planting. Farmers with upland fields have adopted indigenous soil classification techniques based on vegetation types, soil colour, and texture and soil workability and utilize particular soils for specific crops. Integrating this indigenous knowledge into modern technologies will enhance smallholder farmers’ resilience when faced with impacts of climate change and variability.

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