Exploring agriculture diversification in Zambia from different perspectives
This discussion paper (PDF) by Hivos and IIED explores the reasons for the lack of agricultural diversity from the perspectives of smallholder households, market actors and extension officers. Despite the Zambian Government’s intention to diversify agriculture, the country is still heavily reliant on a narrow range of crops; two-thirds of crop cultivation is devoted to maize. Consequently, the Zambian food system is not delivering enough affordable or nutritious foods for the majority of the population. Diversifying agricultural production has the potential to increase the availability, affordability and accessibility of diverse and nutritious food. The analysis shows that smallholder farmers understand the benefits of diversifying but find it difficult to implement. The key barriers are their limited access to land, lack of a diverse range of agricultural inputs, inadequate finance, lack of small-scale irrigation equipment and the inadequate access to and absorption capacity of markets for diverse and nutritious foods. These challenges are worse for women and youth. A specific issue is that neither the public or private sector have made deliberate efforts to increase fruit production, despite its nutritional and income-generating potential. The study reveals that diversifying agricultural production requires a holistic approach involving a range of stakeholders. Agro dealers are ready to support crop diversification, but their stock is driven by farmers’ demands and input supplies; whilst traders are risk-averse, preferring to trade in crops with a known profitability, which may reduce the incentive to trade in a wider range of crops. Extension officers face challenges in changing the mindset of farmers to increase diversity, and also lack transport and adequate training materials on diversification. Zambia’s diversification agenda should be based on the priorities and requirements of farming households. To succeed it will require the collective efforts of key players, and a range of co-ordinated policy changes. Recommendations include: 1) Convening a high-level policy process involving smallholders, consumers and civil society to bring about a sea change towards diversification; 2) Supporting market actors to pull towards more diverse agricultural production; 3) Stimulating demand for healthy and nutritious diets; and 4) Redirecting investments towards more diverse production and research and development that support agricultural diversification.
A related blog of the paper can be found here.