|dc.description.abstract||This study aimed at developing an understanding of the performance of the Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) in Shiwang’andu district of Muchinga Province, Zambia. The rationale of the study was to obtain information that would guide the government and other stakeholders in agriculture on how to utilize market linkages to encourage conservation among smallholder farmers. The study employed both qualitative and quantitative approaches during the research process. Purposive sampling was used to select two COMACO officials and five lead farmers while simple random sampling was used to select the 143 households from the farmer’s lists under COMACO. Data collection instruments used included structured and semi structured interviews, focus group discussions and field observations. Qualitative data were analysed using content analysis by generating identical themes while quantitative data was analyzed using Chi- square tests and measures of central tendency.
The study revealed that COMACO is engaged in a lot of activities which are contributing to the sustainable management of natural resources through the promotion of Conservation Agriculture (CA). Among the prominent activities were transformation of charcoal producers, poachers and Chitemene farmers into CA farmers, bee keepers, fish farmers and horticulturalists. The research also revealed that 67 percent of the households under COMACO were willing to continue practicing CA as long as COMACO keeps providing a market for their crop produce. The level of CA adoption which entails simultaneous implementation of the three principles of CA was as high at 72% and analysis showed a significant relationship between market linkages and levels of CA practice (x2=143.0 ; Df= 1;p≤ 0.0001). Consequently participating communities experienced an increase in income levels as well as livelihoods due to market linkages provided by COMACO. The study further showed that the improvement in livelihood status is highly linked to CA since members receive market incentives for engaging in environmentally sustainable practices. It was noted that despite registering improved livelihoods and incomes the households faced some challenges. Prominent among the challenges was some members still sticking to conventional way of farming. Lack of beneficiaries’ participation in decision making and planning was also cited a major challenge. The study conludes that COMACO activities can lead to the protection of the natural resources especially land, forests and wildlife in the long term. Therefore the study recommends that in order to make CA an efficient farming system and facilitate its adoption process there is need for COMACO to strengthen its extension services and allow all stakeholders to participate in decision making and planning process.||en