Rural Life and Agriculture Tour - Kasame [ Biz/ed Virtual Developing Country ]

Small Farm 2 - Kasame

The Impact of Farming on the Environment

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If development is to be sustainable then the capacity of the land to produce food for future generation should be considered. These future generations will, due to the rapid growth of the population, place greater demands upon the resources. As you visit the farm and travel through the surrounding land it is important to think about the impact of the agricultural techniques that you see on the environment and to think of ways in which it may be made more sustainable.


Impact of Farming on the Environment
Chitemene / Slash and Burn Agriculture

Slash and Burn cultivation methods such as Chitemene where branches of trees are lopped off or the whole trees cut down and burned to create mineral ash enriching the soils have actually led to loss in soil fertility in many areas especially in reserve and trust areas in Northern Zambia. This was particularly true where the population density was higher and the need for food greater. The pressure on the land led to the periods of fallow becoming shorter and the period of cropping longer with the result that the land becomes increasingly infertile and unable to be cultivated.

Impact of Farming on the Environment
Logging - Slash and Burn Agriculture

In addition the cutting down of trees during Chitemene contributes to deforestation. Trees slow down the movement of water down slopes reducing its erosive power. Trees and other forms of vegetation also provide windbreaks reducing the amount of wind erosion. Removal of trees increases both water and wind erosion. Once the topsoil has been washed or blown away then the land becomes unusable.

Worsening poverty in rural areas has also forced many people to move into the forests and start producing charcoal. The consumption of charcoal accounts for 90% of urban areas energy requirement and the consumption of firewood 98% of the energy requirement. The impact of this deforestation will be considerable. Official estimates report that the country is losing 300,000 hectares of forest annually.

Many of the small and medium scale farms as well as large commercial farms use chemical fertilisers to raise their yields. Until recently fertilisers have been heavily subsidised by government in an attempt to ensure self-sufficiency of staple foodstuffs. The intensive use of fertilisers leads to increasing acidity of the soil which in turn eventually diminishes the yield.

It's not just the crop growing that impacts on the environment. Farmers in the reserve and trust lands graze their goats and cows on the communally owned land. In the absence of property rights the grazing is not well managed leading to some areas being overgrazed.

Impact of Farming on the Environment
Soil Erosion

The overgrazing by animals results in the removal of the vegetative cover and its root systems that bind the soil. Once this has been removed the topsoil is susceptible to removal by the erosive forces of rain and wind. Heavily rainfall falling during the rainy seasons will wash away soil and cause rapid gully erosion transforming areas of fertile land into deserts in days and weeks.

Prior to colonisation the environmental impact of these practices was limited to the short term. The pressure for land from a growing population for food production and from commercial ventures for cash crop production has resulted in a more significant and crucially long term and irrevocable damage.

If sustainable development is to take place in the rural areas then appropriate land and livestock management must be adopted in both private and communal land.

Next destination - Commercial Farm >>

Related Glossary Items:
Sustainable Development
Structural Adjustment Programmes
Soil Erosion

Related Theories: