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Subsistence agriculture is the dominant economic activity in the study area. The people are predominantly Smallholders growing a wide range of rain-fed crops including maize, sorghum, rice, millet, beans and other vegetables. The agricultural strategies adopted by local villages are largely in response to the short wet and extended dry season. In fact, these sharp seasonal factors largely drive the subsistence livelihoods adopted by local villages.
Rain-fed cropping is undertaken at elevated areas where flood risks are negligible, but where water functions as a major constraint, particularly during the dry season. Sowing and cropping is undertaken during the months of April to July, in anticipation of the rains in July to September. In addition, local communities actively take advantage of flood events via recession agriculture along river banks. Flood recession agriculture is a critical livelihood adaptation to climate and topography.
Within the project, both commercial farming and productive Smallholders need and will grow crops that are well absorbed in the market. Sugar, rice, maize, soybeans and cotton are among such crops. The market for cowpeas, staple foods and vegetables for local consumption is also expected to grow and provides opportunities.
Current practices among Smallholders include very marginal use of inputs, resulting in low yields, obtained by production in the rainy season. The productivity per hectare has great upwards potential by a combination of better use of inputs and extending the production season by introducing irrigation and thereby extending the production throughout the year.
In addition, the project will study crop livestock interactions (whereby animal manure can also contribute to soil fertility) and other conservation farming techniques (zero tillage, combat wildfires and crop rotations) to combat the depletion of soil fertility.
Substantial production volumes of crops like sugarcane and rice will also have to be accompanied by processing facilities. This will create value addition to these production chains and extra employment and livelihood opportunities. Investments
in postharvest facilities can than boost a green economic growth in the Sisili-Kulpawn.