The Barotse Floodplain System (BFS), Western Province in Zambia, provides diverse ecosystem services important for local and downstream communities (Schuyt, 2005). The livelihoods and migratory patterns of local communities, the Lozi people, are adapted to the natural flow of the unregulated Upper Zambezi (Tweddle, 2010). The livelihoods of the Lozi depend on fishing, cattle or farming, or a combination of those activities. The floodplain is experiencing severe declines in fish catch rates, fish species, population size and fish diversity (Tweddle, 2010; Tweddle et al., 2015). Shifting cultivation and burning are widely practiced in the area, with large impacts on forest composition, deforestation and regeneration (Wolski, 1998, Tambara, et al., 2012). The communities in Barotse shared their concern about the depletion of their natural resources, particularly regarding fish and forest (Kwashimbisa and Puskur, 2014).
Western Province has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, low agricultural productivity and the region is highly vulnerable to internal and external shocks (Flint 2008; Rajaratnam et al. 2015). Poor sandy soils (Kalahari sands), limited access to agricultural inputs (e.g. manure), equipment, and knowledge about improved management techniques using organic matter (Baidu-Forson et al. 2014) prohibit many rural people from increasing production and productivity. The region experiences a period of four to five months with limited access to food (hunger season) (Castine et al. 2013, Baidu-Forson et al. 2014, Rajaratnam et al. 2015).
The BFS is a pilot Nutrition-Sensitive Landscape (NSL) embedded in CGIAR Research Programs Aquatic Agriculture Systems ( ended in January 2016) and Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. Bioversity International lead the characterization of diets, food availability (Pascualino 2014); agrobiodiversity (Baidu-Forson et al. 2014), farming systems (Del Rio 2014) and ecosystem services (Del Rio et al., 2018). Similarly, in collaboration with local partners’, three main activities has been promoted and supported to increase knowledge on nutrition, healthy cooking habits, diversify diets and crops named cooking demonstrations-nutrition clubs and learning plots across the eleven villages. During those activities, legumes have been promoted as good and cheap source of proteins while just improving soil fertility and reducing soil erosion as cover crops. However, legumes occupy a minor part of the Lozi diet.
Among the eleven villages in the BFS pilot, we will first randomly select three villages in which to conduct our experiment. Each BFS village has at least two community facilitators (women and men) and one Induna or traditional leader. We will introduce our activities with the community facilitators and Indunas to incorporate their opinions and ideas. They will be in charge of inviting the community to our activities or first events. The invitation for the solar cookers will be open to everyone within the village who is interested.
In each community we will have an introductory day-long event. During the morning we will: 1) start an open discussion with participants about the objectives, commitment and expected results from the solar cookers project; 2) conduct a test and use some of the cookers to make our communal lunch highlighting safety management and precaution measures with a hands-on experience.
During the afternoon session, we will invite those participants interested in the project and in volunteering to have and use the solar stove during six weeks. The commitment is to properly manage the solar stove, record its daily usage for six weeks in the assigned form and record charcoal and firewood consumption during the same period. Households who volunteer to participate will be part of a raffle of the solar stoves at the end of the six week experiment, conditional on their satisfactory completion of their cooking and fuel log. This is to incentivize members of the control group, who do not receive a stove, to record their data through the six weeks.