ECOLOGY AND CHANGE IN THE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM OF THE KAONDE OF NORTHWESTERN ZAMBIA

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ABSTRACT

The Kaonde inhabit the savanna woodland plateaus of the Northwestern Province of Zambia. Primarily subsistence farmers, they have developed an agricultural system that consists of a chitemene form of long fallow cultivation and various forms of continuous cultivation. The different cultivation systems involve the exploitation of different environmental locations, where they are characterised by different agricultural practices and crop assemblages. Spatial variations in agricultural land use reflect locally varying environmental conditions. Given the prevalence of the tsetse fly, the Kaonde do not raise livestock, but over the last two decades some Kaonde farmers have engaged in fish-farming as a dietary supplement and cash crop.

The Northwestern Province is the least populated, least developed, and most rural province in Zambia, yet recent population growth, notably in the close-settled zone around Solwezi Township (the provincial capital), has led to changes in the Kaonde agriculture system. Population pressure has led to the shortening of the fallows associated with long fallow cultivation, and an increased emphasis on existing forms of continuous cultivation. In a modified fashion, changes in Kaonde agricultural practices support the main contention of the Boserup theory that increases in population lead to the intensification of agriculture.

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