What follows is the story of CF farmer Mr. Arnold Banda based in Nalufwi in Chisamba Central Region. He owns a 50-hectare farm located 11 kilometers off the Great North Road.
Mr. Banda drew his inspiration for farming from his past employment as an equipment operator at Sunrise farm in Makeni, Lusaka. Whilst still in employment, he started his own farm on rented land in Makeni, he was averaging 40 x 50kg bags of maize on a 2-hectare plot (1tonne/ha) using an ox drawn plough to till the land. He recalls how his friends tried to discourage him when he told them he intended to give up his job and venture into full time farming because of lack of profitability, high risks and uncertainties associated with agriculture.
Mr. Banda left his job at Sunrise after being offered a more lucrative post but unfortunately the offer was withdrawn. This finally prompted Mr. Banda to take up farming on his own land as a full time business. From the benefits he accrued from Sunrise Farm, he managed to purchase 50ha of traditional land in Nalufwi were he built a small house and moved in with the family.
In the farming season of 2014/2015, he ploughed 4 ha of land for maize, this 4 ha yielded only 100 bags x 50kg (1.25 tons/ha); this low yield was repeated in 2015/2016 season. He blamed the poor soils on his farm and was on the verge of selling half of it out of frustration with, what he perceived to be soil infertility.
In 2016 he attended Conservation Farming Unit training after being invited by the area Field Officer. It was at this point that his and his family’s lives turned a corner and became a success story.
He planted 4 hectares of maize and 4 hectares of soya beans under the method which he had been trained by the CFU and it was an instant success for the proud Mr. Banda. He harvested 520 x 50kg bags of maize (6t/ha) and 200 bags (2.5t/ha) of soya beans.
From the sale of some of the 2016/2017 harvest, Mr. Banda managed to finish building the big house which he had started, invested some money in tomatoes and fresh maize production. Currently, he says his plans are on course as he has managed to purchase 3 solar panels (300 watts each), 6 x 150 watts for irrigation and home utility and smaller ones for lighting on the yard – see phot above. He has also managed to sink a borehole for home use and irrigation purposes and has purchased a 10 000l and a 5 000l water tank as reservoirs.
The 54-year-old Mr. Banda says conservation farming (CF) has made him regret the many years he spent in employment which did not develop him as per plans. Through CF Mr. Banda says he is able to pay for his children’s school fees, he has managed to invest in village chickens, under a semi intensive regime, her also keeps goats and has developed a vegetable garden.
Mr. Banda says his immediate plan for this coming season is to purchase a tractor under a loan scheme and become a minimum tillage TSP as he has vast knowledge in equipment operation. Other long-term plans are to utilize 20 hectares for livestock, 15hectares for rain fed crop production and 15ha for irrigation.