Biochar – Fueling a Regenerative Agriculture Revolution in Zambia

Feb 20, 2024

In the sandy lands of Mongu, Western Province, Zambian farmers rely on steady rainfall to provide for their families. However, the rainfall has become increasingly erratic in recent years, severely impacting crop yields.

Without a reliable harvest, hunger looms large. Farmers pray daily for stable rain, and our innovative biochar project, funded by UNDP, offers an answer as biochar retains moisture and supports sustainable farming.

People in Need (PIN) is spearheading this project in Zambia to reduce climate shocks.

“I’ve been using biochar in my farming for two seasons now and have noticed increased yields,” says farmer Hastings Nasilele.

Biochar is a charcoal-like material made by burning agricultural and forestry waste biomass. It is produced through a unique process that results in low contamination and allows for safe carbon storage. Unlike regular charcoal, biochar enhances soil quality by reducing acidity and helps sandy soils retain water better to minimise plant drought stress and nutrient leaching.

According to a Rural Agriculture Survey by the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), the Western Province has the lowest agriculture production figures in Zambia. They contend with issues around food provision, climate-smart techniques, fertiliser use, household income, etc. Over 76% of households here live below the poverty line, and small land holdings averaging 2.4 ha with almost no irrigation are highly vulnerable to droughts and crop failure. (IAPRI 2019)

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