The 50,000 km² Luangwa River valley supports Africa’s largest population of hippos and two of the finest National Parks in Africa - North Luangwa (4636 km2) and South Luangwa (9050 km2).
When COMACO began its work in this wildlife rich landscape, only 35% of households were able to produce enough food from farming to sustain their needs.
There were two primary reasons for this. Firstly, regressive farming techniques meant low yields and an exponential cycle of soil depletion; secondly, there was an increasing need for cash in a fast growing cash economy. This caused many farmers to switch to non-food cash crops such as cotton and tobacco that simply served to increase the likelihood of food shortages in the valley. In addition to a range of catastrophic societal impacts, this chronic food security created two significant negative impacts on the natural landscape. Secondly, it created a need for more land to be converted to fields – a dynamic which also spawned a thriving trade in charcoal production. Secondly, it created a significant wildlife poaching dynamic with tens of thousands of animals were being lost annually.
The Investment: Within this context, COMACO is building a conservation development platform targeting this primary conservation threat – food insecurity. It is addressing this both on the supply side - as a technical services provider, and on the demand side - as a premium price-paying customer. It uses the value this generates to create a framework of conservation driven incentives and disincentives within the local communities that populate the valley. On the supply side - it is teaching conservation farming, working with local communities to increase the use of organic fertilisers, crop diversity and rotation and reducing the use of fire as a means of improving soils and increasing yields. On the demand side – via its commercial food processing operation and its ‘Its Wild’ retail brand, it is using its network of local depots to enable efficient access to markets and processing the raw commodities into a range of value-added branded products targeting fast growing local and regional urban based markets that provide the fuel the purchasing power that COMACO uses to drive its model. This base purchasing power, intensified by the application of a conservation dividend payment mechanism, is the basis of the leverage that COMACO generates to drive better conservation of the landscape – with a focus on three core dynamics: conservation farming, reduced poaching and charcoal production. African Wildlife Capital has invested US$ 400,000 as a CAPEX facility to enable consolidation and automation of COMACO’s food processing plants, a replacement of its transport fleet and improved functionality of its Lusaka HQ.