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This Zambian Entrepreneur Is Designing Mobile, Sustainable Farms

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Entrepreneur Dorcas Lukwesa grew up on his grandparents’ farm in Zambia. She is now building a social enterprise there around smart bamboo mobile gardens for farmers with limited space, limited soil and less water.

Lukwesa, founder of Mobile Aquaponics and member of the CAMFED association who studies at EARTH University, a university focused on sustainable agriculture in Costa Rica, says her main project is in mobile aquaponics.

β€œThese gardens use a natural recirculating system known as aquaponics,” she says, adding that aquaponics is the cultivation of fish and vegetables in a built recirculating ecosystem, which uses natural bacterial cycles to convert fish waste into plant nutrients.

“My concept of mobile aquaponics is a system of compartments – it contains a tank for fish and a compartment for growing vegetables and the water it uses is recycled … The water containing the fish droppings circulates into the system, providing nutrients to the vegetables, and is then returned to the aquarium, “she says.” The whole concept promotes fish and vegetable farming while recycling water, thus closing the system cycle of production.

Lukwesa Mobile Aquaponics is a social enterprise dedicated to providing a resilient response to climate change, promoting food security in times of climate crisis to reduce poverty in Zambia.

β€œThrough our demonstration urban farm, we hope to provide agribusiness training to over 2,000 farmers over the next five years,” she says, adding that she hopes to create 20 new job opportunities for them. women and young people in order to allow families to generate additional income and encourage a collaborative community in the project.

β€œMy plan is to replicate the system in my rural community in Zambia to improve the sustainability of food production and nutrition in marginalized communities,” she says, β€œI also plan to work with other smallholder women farmers to incubate this idea to CAMFED’s climate – smart demonstration farm in Chinsali, Zambia, training young women to grow fresh fish and vegetables locally, in a sustainable way and using local natural resources. “

Zambian roots in agriculture

Lukwesa was born in Zambia’s Luapula province, the third of eight children, and says that when she was 13, her father decided to return to her home country, due to financial hardship and lack of opportunities. employment, while she, her mother and siblings initially remained in Zambia.

“My mother couldn’t feed us on her own, so we had to split up and ask different family members for help … I went to live with my grandparents and that’s when that my life has changed, ”she says.

Lukwesa says her grandparents did their best to support her through subsistence farming, but by the time she was supposed to enter Grade 8, there were no more resources available.

“We couldn’t afford all the requirements, like a uniform, books or pens,” she said, “I was starting to lose hope.”

The turning point came when a teacher and the deputy head of her school partnered her with CAMFED, an NGO aimed at eradicating poverty in Africa by educating girls and empowering women.

Lukwesa says that eventually, through the CAMFED network, she heard about an opportunity to study at EARTH University, a university focused on sustainable agriculture in Costa Rica.

β€œI jumped at the chance,” she says.

Food security in an uncertain world

Lukwesa says that in a country like Zambia 95% of agricultural production is rain-fed, so there is a need for an alternative farming method that can thrive under climate change, to ensure food security.

β€œClimate change has a disproportionate impact on poor rural communities and my passion for sustainable agriculture is inspired by the many challenges that smallholder farmers in my community face,” she says, adding that the lived experience is part of it. from the unique perspective that researchers from the Global South bring to their work.

“We are in the best position to find solutions when we have been educated and because we have also been directly confronted with the consequences of unpredictable weather conditions – including food insecurity due to massive crop losses caused by droughts affecting maize. , a staple crop ”, Lukwesa says:β€œ Because of this experience, I am dedicated to encouraging small farmers to adopt sustainable farming practices, to fight hunger while improving resilience to climate change ”.

Another woman in STEM and entrepreneur is Patience Mkandawire, 27, who grew up in rural Zimbabwe’s Nkayi district.

MORE FORBESThese rural Zimbabwe girls continue to learn during coronavirus pandemic from women in STEM

Another Camfed member, she continued to study computer science and software engineering and is now helping girls in Nkayi to do the same and get the educational resources they need during pandemic-induced school closings. in Zimbabwe.

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