The Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) project addresses the underlying responds for environmental degradation and biodiversity loss in Zambia, namely poverty and hunger among disenfranchised small-scale farmers. Historically, both government and private sector have failed to bring meaningful, long-term solutions to address the need for more sustainable, low-cost farming practices and more equitable and inclusive markets. COMACO, and specifically this project, builds on a track record of over 15 years developing a model that organizes small-scale farmers into farmer-based organization to facilitate more cost-effectively the transfer of improved farming skills for over 230,000 families, or about 1.2 million people. From these skills, farmers produce crop surpluses that COMACO buys and manufactures into healthy, nutritious food products under the brand It's WIld! for sale across the country and returns the increased market value to farmers for their compliance to the farming practices they are taught. The approach is hard, requires financing, and long-term commitment to see positive change. Such change is now apparent with household incomes more than tripled and food security reaching nearly 90% of participating families, up from about 60% when we began our work in early 2000s.
As COMACO, we depend on donations to help build the needed infrastructure and staff to make this market-based, farmer-based approach financially self-sustaining. We are not there yet, constrained by effects from COVID and the high transaction costs of operating across vast rural landscapes with bad roads. However, trends are favorable with growing sales and distributing over 8000 tons of product annually, stronger farmer-based organizations becoming self-reliant, and exciting negative trends in deforestation and wildlife losses. Farmers are now respecting their land and repairing past years of soil damage that triggers the problems COMACO confronts with its unique approach.
This project is supported by the Maecenata Foundation, Munich/Berlin: