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Small Scale farmers key to Agrobiodiversity-CTDT Director

Zambia is endowed with abundant natural resources and a fairly rich biological diversity manifested in its wetlands and rivers, flora and fauna and agrobiodiversity.

However, the value of ecosystems and their biodiversity are not fully appreciated even though the country is heavily dependent on these natural resources.

Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT) Director, Charles Nkhoma who has taken up the initiative of promoting agrobiodiversity explains that during his formal employment years, he always thought there was a gap in terms of what he called plant genetic resources programmes.

“During my days at the National gene bank and SADC gene bank, we used to talk about the fact that we were conserving the diversity that is in the country and the region without involving farmers very much because of the nature of the program.” he said.

Mr. Nkhoma adds that it was always his interest to play a future role in establishing an entity that would work with farmers towards maintaining biodiversity which was aimed at promoting local crops which had slowly started disappearing and going into extinction in the country.

In 2009, CTDT, an agro-biodiversity NGO was registered. The same year Mr. Nkhoma left his last formal employment at World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

“The initial funding came from Hivos for about four years and basically just working with promoting those crops which were possibly going in extinction, these included Bambara nuts ,cowpeas and even traditional varieties of groundnuts, maize, sorghum and millet.” He said.

With the project which started towards the end of 2011 for four years, CTDT began a process of multiplying seed in communities and allowing farmers to share; this program enabled the increase in some of the seed varieties especially Bambara nut and cow peas which were almost going into extinction in some areas.

The director explained that the biggest challenge was first to convince enough potential funding partners because for a long time even Hivos' interest was simply to improve the farmers wellbeing and not necessarily focusing on biodiversity; the approach to promote biodiversity was CTDT's initiative.

Normally, the belief that farmers' seed systems are a credible means for achieving food security is not very well understood, most people only understand modern crop production which involves hybrid seed , chemicals and machinery.” He said.

And asked why the name 'CTDT', Mr. Nkhoma explained that the name was adopted from Zimbabwe where CTDT was first established in the early1990s.

The name basically means that it was the communities (rural communities) at the center of development. The term technology was used in a broad sense which meant the farmers abilities to take production using practices that are developed overtime.

“People don't appreciate that what farmers do is also technology in its own right. Those are technologies, its just that society has tended to view technology as one that involves machinery and other sophisticated things.” he added.

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