COMACO is mitigating key drivers of environmental degradation compounded by poverty among the households across a rural landscape...

#Zambia; #Agriculture; #Forestry; #Food_processing

Social Mission: To show that sustainable land management and ecological conservation can be profitable for rural African communities. We have shown how small scale farmers in Zambia can produce healthy, organic foods and share in a growing value chain of premium quality food products while reducing poverty and preserving wildlife and habitat.  Our business model enables communities to flourish while adopting best practices in sustainable forestry and land management that mitigate the impact of climate change and capture carbon.

Overview: COMACO has a 15 year history of working across the Luangwa Valley ecosystem, a landscape of approximately 150,000km2, helping to shape a positive balance between land and natural resources and residing small-scale farmers by focusing on three key fundamentals: (1) environmentally sustainable farming practices, (2) market incentives that encourage the adoption of these practices, and (3) disincentives for not adopting these practices.  

Climate Change Problem: In early 2000s, natural resource exploitation in the Luangwa valley was at its peak. Wildlife population was being decimated, deforestation and forest degradation was rampant, there was no market proper market for farmer produce and there was loss of soil fertility due to unsustainable farming practices. All this led to poverty of the local community living adjacent to the protected areas and along the Luangwa river.

Our Solution: The COMACO business model makes conservation profitable.  Small-scale farming communities do the conservation by adopting sustainable farming practices and abandoning those harmful to the land.  The net results are more trees, more wildlife, more carbon stored in farm soils, and more resilient farmers able to adapt to changing climate trends. Farmer membership in COMACO is over 178,000 small-scale farmers.  Each farmer signs a pledge to adopt selected sustainable farming practices to be eligible to have their crops purchased by COMACO at premium commodity prices.  COMACO in turn buys their surplus crops through contractual agreements with these cooperatives and adds commercial value to local producers by producing quality food products sold under the brand, It’s Wild! COMACO’s next pursuit seeks to improve community-led management of 1,200,000 hectares of land as community conservation areas certified by local government authorities and 42,000 hectares managed as a pilot community game ranch that combines forest and carbon products with potential wildlife revenues.  These initiatives will lead to an ecosystem-scale land management approach based on improved farming and land use practices, complemented by a stronger sense of local culture and pride for caring and respecting the land.  The outcome of these initiatives will be the establishment of 37 forest management groups with 10 executive members. Each will be trained in forest management, as well as wildlife management in selected areas. By 2023, these community protected land areas could earn an annual income of over US$1,960,000 from the sale of carbon credits.  COMACO maintains a team of competent GIS/carbon/conservation specialists to support communities with the technical requirements to make such large-scale carbon transactions possible.  COMACO manages its own carbon account set up through Verra, an independent carbon auditing institute, to invoice and sale carbon credits to interested carbon buyers on behalf of the local communities it has partnered with.


• Increased small –scale farmers’ participation in the COMACO program from 3,550 in 2003 to 178,000 in 2018

• Increased adoption of sustainable farming practices from 12% in 2003 to 83% in 2018

• Improved annual income for small-scale farmers from US$79 in 2003 to US$345 in 2018

• Improved food security for small-scale farmers from 11% in 2003 to 84% in 2018 • Reduced annual deforestation in the project area from 4.3% in 2010 to 1.8% in 2018

• Avoided carbon emission by 768,000tCO2 e from 2013 to 2018 on 335,000ha

By 2023, we aim to increase small –scale farmers participation in the COMACO program to 230,000 while increasing the adoption of sustainable farming practices to 90%. Annual income increase for small-scale farmers is expected to touch $550 from US$345. We also plan to establish 1 functioning community game ranch with an additional two new start-ups and commit 750,000 hectares of community conservation areas to carbon revenue generation for resident communities while avoiding annual carbon emission equaling 3,700,000tCO2e.

Represented by Angel Makungu, GIS specialist, in the Social Investment Accelerator. Contact Angel at [email protected] 

Founded by Ashoka Fellow Dale Lewis

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