Farm Talk, is a wildly popular radio program produced by our partner COMACO, which has 165,000 registered small-scale farmers in Zambia's Luangwa Valley, home to many wildlife parks and forests. Farm Talk provides farmers with information on production techniques, climate change, habitat preservation and wildlife conservation. Farmer listener groups rely on our solar Prime radios and Lifeplayers to listen to Farm Talk and, in turn, derive many benefits from group listening and discussions.
Poor farming practices in the Luangwa Valley led to depleted soil and reduced yields, and in 2001 only half the households grew enough maize to feed their families during the year. To earn an income, many turned to poaching wildlife, clearing forests for non-food cash crops and burning trees for charcoal. Using natural resources in such an unsustainable way creates a poverty trap that removes any future options of income generation, and limits the number of people the land can support.
Access to information is key to raising farmer incomes, and Farm Talk is central to COMACO's solution of teaching small-scale farmers how to farm sustainably and adopt conservation methods. As COMACO also provides farmers with a market, the radio program lets them know when and where to take their produce for COMACO to buy, process and package for sale. If farmers are able to generate enough income from farming, they stop poaching and other environmentally destructive practices.
COMACO-registered farmers are experiencing the positive impact of farming sustainably. Poaching has been abandoned as a livelihood, and the numbers of key wildlife species, like elephants, are increasing. Providing more Lifeplayers will extend Farm Talk's reach in areas with poor FM reception, enabling COMACO to scale their skills training and education programs, and ensure not only the ecological health of the Luangwa Valley, but provide sustainable, secure incomes for the people living there.