The DFCD partners with Zambian cane sugar grower to make its irrigation climate-smart

    Dutch Fund for Climate and Development

    Zeist, the Netherlands – The Dutch Fund for Climate and Development (DFCD) has approved a €180,000 grant for KASCOL, Zambia’s oldest cooperative of sugar growers, to conduct the environmental, social and technical assessments to install drip irrigation.

    The project has been put forward by the World Wide Fund for Nature Netherlands, which manages together with SNV Netherlands Development Organisation the DFCD’s Origination Facility to develop new projects for the investment fund.

    KASCOL is located in the Kafue Flats, a 6,500 km² floodplain located in the southern region of Zambia. The DFCD identified this region as one of its ten focus landscapes, which is a unique aspect of the fund’s strategy.

    It means that in this area the DFCD consortium adopts a ‘landscape’ strategy for deal origination and execution. This allows consortium parties to actively source and develop private sector investment opportunities in-and-around, in the vicinity of, as well as downstream from, their own investment activities.

    The World Wide Fund for Nature Zambia has been working in the region for many years to ensure a sustainable development of the area for the people and nature. KASCOL, which has been part of WWF’s Kafue Flats Joint Action Group for years, has committed itself to work in line with the landscape approach for the region.

    Nachilala Nkombo, Country Director WWF Zambia said.

    “Given the water pressures in the Kafue flats, WWF Zambia has been working closely with KASCOL to explore ways in which the business can reduce water risks through sustainable agriculture and water conservation practices,”

    Kafue Flats powers Zambian economy

    The densely-populated region is of major, industrial, ecological and socio-economic significance for Zambia. In all, the Kafue Flats wetland is estimated to directly support the livelihoods of more than 2 million people. The Kafue river also supports and sustains vital environmental systems like wetlands, national parks and bird sanctuaries. But over-abstraction of water and more severe droughts as a result of climate change are threatening this important economic region and ecosystem.

    The Kafue Flats generate 50% of the country’s national hydroelectricity supply through the Kafue Gorge Dam and Itezhi-Tezhi Dam, and 44% of water used in Lusaka, the capital, is drawn from the Kafue river. The region is home to the country’s most productive fisheries and it has the highest concentration of cattle in the country with an estimated 20% of the national herd (290,000 cattle) grazing on the flats in the dry season.

    A world-leading producer of sugarcane

    The floodplain is also the most efficient place in the world to grow sugar cane, Zambia’s most important cash crop generating 4% of its Gross Domestic Product. With yields averaging more than 120 tons of sugar cane per hectare, the country achieves the highest yields worldwide. Zambian producers are very competitive thanks to relatively low production costs even though transportation costs are high. Transport is expensive because of the long distance to the nearest port, but most demand for sugar is local (40%) and regional. KASKOL sells its sugar cane to Zambia Sugar, which has a processing facility nearby.

    KASCOL invests in drip irrigation to become climate-resilient

    KASCOL is seeking to replace its current irrigation system of furrows with drip irrigation to make its sugar cane fields as resilient to climate change as possible. With the same amount of water, the company can water many more hectares. The cost/benefit of installing drip irrigation is high. The investment pays itself back in two years.

    KASCOL wants to convert 300 hectares of its commercial fields in the next two years to drip irrigation. This requires a loan of up to €5 million from the DFCD. KASCOL starts with its commercial fields because they generate a higher yield. The smallholder farmers benefit through their shareholding in the Kaleya Smallholders Trust and the Mazabuka Sugar Cane Growers Trust (see about KASCOL).

    To be eligible for a DFCD loan, KASCOL first has to conduct the necessary environmental, social, and technical assessments. These studies are essential to understand the water availability in the region and how it can be best allocated. It also needs to develop the tender to select the installation company for the drip irrigation. The current DFCD origination grant will help co-fund these steps.

    Keiron Brand, Regional Lead WWF DFCD Africa:

    “KASCOL has shown time and again that it provides a really good farmers outgrower model. The farmers earn more and have more economic security. Through this project, the farmers will become more resilient to the effect of climate change and unpredictable water availability. The company is a great partner to work with. It has a strong willingness to work with us and make decisions based on the environment and the benefits to farmers.”

    Muimui Mufana, CEO of KASCOL

    “Engaging in sustainable agricultural practices has been a key driver in KASCOL’s business model. Our participation in the WWF’s Kafue Flats Joint Action Group is a privilege and an opportunity for our farmers to participate in the preservation efforts of the wetlands. KASCOL is happy to partner with WWF DFCD in the environmental, social and technical assessment of our drip irrigation project proposal”
    This is an example of how WWF partners with business to stop the degradation of the natural environment through  green bankable projects that are financially, socially and environmentally sound”.

    Nachilala Nkombo, Country Director WWF Zambia

    “Our work with KASCOL is an example of how WWF partners with business to stop the degradation of the natural environment through green bankable projects that are financially, socially and environmentally sound”.
    Irrigating sugar cane fields. Sugar cane farms rely heavily on water from the Kafue River for irrigation, and effluents from sugar-cane processing are discharged back into the river. Rich in nutrients this causes plant growth (Water hyacinth) which clogs up waterways. Local people have problems navigating the river and fish suffocate. Kafue Flats, Zambia

    Key impact metrics per year

    • 70% reduction in water use per hectare through drip irrigation compared with furrows
    • 10% increase in crop yields

    More information
    Want to know more about this project? Visit the WWF website or contact Keiron Brand, Regional Lead DFCD Africa at kbrand@wwf.nl

    Sugar cane field, close-up. Sugar cane farms rely heavily on water from the Kafue River for irrigation, and effluents from sugar-cane processing are discharged back into the river. Rich in nutrients this causes plant growth (Water hyacinth) which clogs up waterways. Local people have problems navigating the river and fish suffocate. Kafue Flats, Zambia