Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO)

This initiative seeks to work toward healthy soil, healthy food, and a healthy diet in rural Zambia. Program participants agree not to kill wildlife and to use agroecological approaches and diversification learned through farmer training.  

Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) was established in 2009. It is a non–profit company that channels market incentives to rural economies in Zambia through the adoption of renewable, climate-smart technologies. This model is well–established and proven to promote strategies of free knowledge exchange, achieve household food and income security, enhance the market value of surplus crops, and reduce environmental degradation and biodiversity loss through placing the interests of poor, small–scale farmers at the forefront. 

The company advances two strategies: 1) farmer support services that provide inputs and effective climate-smart agriculture and sustainable land management training to 167,400 low–income, small–scale farmers and 67 farmer cooperatives who are managing these services themselves; and 2) a business that manufactures and sells value-added products from the farmers trained by the organization. They believe that by bringing knowledge and skills, as well as market incentives, to small–scale farmers, they will be able to help transform communities into stewards of their own land and its resources. By 2019, they will be supporting up to 200,000 small–scale farmers or 1.2 million family members. COMACO uses a business approach to identify economic solutions to end poverty for small–scale farmers while influencing better strategies for sustainable conservation. The farmers sign a “conservation pledge” and are compensated for their crops once they demonstrate their commitment to protect the land. Additionally, COMACO is working with the African Development Bank and the Zambian government on scaling the initiative to other landscapes. 

In an interview with Dale Lewis, the president and founder of COMACO, he shared a story about how the initiative was created, in part, to help stop illegal elephant hunting. Poor and hungry villagers were hunting the animals for food. Now, with this initiative, they are able to grow their own food and create a livelihood outside of elephant hunting, which benefits the environment as well as the health of the smallholder farmers. In an area where a cotton company had cleared forest, a chief was asked, “If a kudu (antelope) would come out and walk through the village, what would you do?” The chief answered, “I would shoot it, unless I had enough food. Then I would admire it.” This illustrates how hunger can undermine people’s relationship with nature. COMACO provides an alternative that benefits the community and the environment.

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