While Africa must be saved from climate change, sustainable farming practices have always been interwoven in its agricultural DNA. By FAO’s own admission, the continent’s agriculture produced a tiny proportion of global carbon emissions.
However, the continent was not absolved from the looming climate change carnage. As far back as 2009 FAO cast an eerie warning to Africa that by the year 2100 “projections on yield reduction will show a drop of up to 50% and crop revenue will be forecasted to fall by as much as 90%.”
This undoubtedly may occur in 100 years’ time but not without Africans observing and adhering to their cultural ways of farming. Some cultures in Africa have managed to survive volatile weather conditions and drought spells, yet the archives of history have not been fair in recording this phenomenon.
Kennedy Manene, environmental researcher, offers a reasonable explanation to this quagmire. In his research titled ‘Indigenous practices of environmental sustainability in the Tonga community of southern Zambia’ he believed culture played a significant role in preserving the agricultural environment.
“The study revealed that selective harvesting, totemism and taboos, organic farming, crop rotation and intercropping, sacredness of water sources and traditional authority were the main instruments of environmental conservation amongst the Tonga.”
Kennedy also discovered that the Tonga people employed various strategies to conserve soil, water, animals, medicinal and fruit plants, and rangeland. Some interesting sustainable farming practices handed down from generation to generation include;
• land is left unploughed for 4 years, to enable it regenerate.
• maize is grown in the same field for about 3 years before another crop is planted
• livestock manure is used to sustain land by using grass and crop residues and adding them in cattle kraals
• the best of the grain seeds is preserved by hanging or stacking them in the roof of the kitchen where smoke acts as grain preservative against pests.
The Tonga people are one but many African communities still perpetuating the culture of sustainable farming in an African way. From the Igbos of Nigeria, to the Dikgale Community in Limpopo Province of South Africa, Ba’Aka pygmies of Central Africa etc all show similar patterns