No! Not the bungee jumping, zip line and gorge swinging that a group of post graduate students from the University of California, Berkeley undertook while they were staying at Chanters Lodge recently on a brief break from their involvement with Comaco. The trade name for Comaco products is ‘It’s Wild‘ – “never heard of it!” I said to the group as I was dropping them off for a one night ‘splurge’ at the David Livingstone Safari Lodge and Spa. “You should have done” said Ciera Ashley, the group organizer, “one of their trucks just passed us on the road and this morning we were eating ‘It’s Wild’ Peanut Butter and Honey in your restaurant!” (Richard! Don’t worry, it might be an age thing – my remark not theirs! )
COMACO is a model for rural development that supports natural resource management. It operates through a community-owned trading centre, registered as a non-profit company, called the Conservation Farmer Wildlife Producer Trading Centre.CTC
Community residents benefit from this trading centre by receiving high market value for goods they produce and having access to affordable farmer inputs and improved farming skills on the condition that they adopt land use practices that help conserve their area’s natural resources. Specific land use practices required include conservation farming, which helps maintain soil fertility, crops that help reduce conflicts with wildlife or rates of land clearing, and commitment to stop wildlife snaring or illegal hunting. Under these conditions and by increasing the market value of more desired crops, the model is able to influence the land use practices of thousands of households across large landscapes that are associated with important wildlife and watershed resources. All proceeds from the company are reinvested in efforts to achieve food security, increased rural income, and improved natural resource management. With assistance from a range of collaborating partners, COMACO has become increasingly self-financing to help sustain efforts to mitigate problems of environmental degradation in areas where poverty and food insecurity were primary factors driving this degradation. Six basic steps describe how COMACO has set about to achieve increased synergies between agriculture, markets and conservation:
1. Target poor, food-insecure farming families with improved farming practices (conservation farming, composting, improved seed varieties, etc.) to increase food production and attain sufficient food to meet their annual needs.
2. Concurrent with step one, organize farmers into producer groups, especially those learning improved farming practices, and promote group commitment to abandon land use practices destructive to natural resources.
3. Diversify livelihood skills (livestock husbandry, dry season gardening, carpentry, bee-keeping, improved fisheries management, etc.) among these producer groups to increase opportunities for earning legal income without degrading natural resources in their area.
4. Mobilize producer groups in a prescribed area as a depot unit and establish a trading depot for bulking goods for markets.
5. Establish a regional trading center that offers producer groups through their depots fair, high-paying producer prices, on-site transactions, and reliable transport of goods to high-paying markets.
6. Formalize an agreement with producer groups through their depot that such services and benefits are available only if producer groups are fully compliant to land use practices not in conflict with their natural resources as guided by a community-approved land use plan.
We’ll certainly support them knowingly, in future!