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|COMACO RESULTS: FOOD SECURITY THROUGH CROP DIVERSITY AND INCREASED YIELDS!|
|COMACO has tangible results in the area of food production! Reliable food production leads to food security – one of COMACO’s core long term objectives! Here’s how we’re doing it!||
1. Increases in crop varieties
Increasing crop variety is a crucial element of food security. COMACO has introduced rice farming,
groundnut production and sweet cassava plantations to area farm groups. As a result, the number of different food crops contributing to member income has increased from 10 to 16 during the 2008-9 season, with very significant increases in percent grown by crop. The increase in crop number this past season is attributed to introduction of three additional legumes: sugar beans, soybeans and cowpeas.
Rice and sweet cassava production, crops which are particularly important in providing food security during harsh weather seasons, have increased appreciably since inception. The table below compares total number and percent of member farmers sampled who grew specified grain crops (maize, millet, sorghum, and rice) or sweet cassava in 2000 compared to 2009. The number of rice growers has increased five-fold, which correlates with the increased commodity price by an amount of almost three-fold since the beginning of COMACO. Sweet cassava growers have increased over ten-fold, though many households remain without sweet cassava. There is likelihood that cassava is more commonly grown than presented in the data, as many households do not regard it as an actual crop and tend to understate it. Growth of ground nuts, an important source of protein, has also increased from the baseline year, as shown in the figures below.
Improving the yield per acre of cultivated land also contributes to food security. In 2006, COMACO undertook a detailed study of actual crop harvests for fields using conservation farming with compost and non-conservation farming by counting rows and maize cobs in a fixed area and extrapolating to actual field size using GPS-determined areas. Based on this work, farmers who adopted conservation farming with compost harvested on average 15% higher yields than those who did not practice conservation farming. COMACO conservation farming techniques have shown consistent yield increases – both as measured by yield per lima and per household, as shown in the figure below which depicts yields from the study year, 2006.
The total kgs of grain + cassava produced on average per household also increased from 1,188.7 kgs in 2000 to 1617.7 kg per household in 2009, reflecting a 34% increase in food production per household between pre-COMACO and post-COMACO yields.
Because COMACO emphasizes selling ONLY those grains in excess of what is needed for family food security, the ability to sell crops to COMACO is also viewed as an indicator of production success.
Another reflection of productivity growth is the need for the COMACO CTC’s to accommodate grain purchases from member farmers. During 2008, COMACO increased its storage capacity at the CTCs by adding 770 more tons of storage space: 340 in Mfuwe, 150 in Lundazi/Chama and 300 in Nyimba/Feira, representing a 62% increase in total storage from 2007. This has allowed COMACO to handle more reliably larger tonnages from the producer communities to keep up with growing production levels and demands. COMACO will continue expanding storage floor space at all three CTCs in 2009 because of anticipated future growth.