Zambia: Agriculture Assessment Western Province, Zambia, August 2017

Report
from People in Need
Published on 31 Aug 2017

Summary

Initial assessment of farming system had been carried out between August 10 and 27, 2017 and included i) focus group discussions with target communities ii) key informant interviews among key stakeholders iii) field observation in farming households and fields and iv) commodity survey in the local markets. The general agriculture production system had been described while taking into account the general conditions in the area of the Western province, mainly districts surrounding the provincial capital of Mongu. Detailed description of the situation on the community level had been then carried out with a special focus on the Kalabo district. Assessment targeted primarily the situation of rural community members in vulnerable situation mainly in terms of food insecurity, malnutrition and lack of access to basic services. Respecting the local extension terminology, the assessment targeted the barriers that prevent the transition of farmers from the status of “poor” to “emerging” producers.

When it comes to production system, vulnerability of the production is mainly attributed to unreliable seasons and changing climate, however the overall farming system remains still largely extensive and in fact not sustainable nor resilient to potential effects of climate change. Low investments are made by farmers mainly in terms of managing the field soil nutrients, landscape, organic matter or natural resources in general. Three major production systems can be defined as i) rain-fed slash-and-burn in uplands ii) continuous flood irrigated lands in dambo areas and iii) cattle grazing in the bush and plains. Integration of these systems is only minimal. Any agriculture intervention should be therefore aimed not only at the food security and nutrition, but also natural resource conservation (conservation agriculture) and integration of the production systems, namely animal and crop production; (integration agriculture and agroforestry practices) (afforestation, orchards, fodder plants). Both these approaches are a crucial pre-condition and a step forward to agriculture intensification and risk-management much desired by all stakeholders interviewed.

From the perspective of systems and service accessibility, most surveyed households and communities seem to lack the access to agriculture inputs, assets, extension services and sale opportunities for their products. The gap can be observed mostly in the lack of the know-how, finances and also willingness of the respondents to organise themselves in order to mitigate the investment risks.

Seed system is still based mostly on the locally reproduced open pollinated (OP) varieties of maize, millet, and rice and locally preferred tubers (cassava, sweet potato). Improved seeds which are offered by few private seed dealers in district markets and government programs (Farmers Input Supply Programme, FISP) remain largely inaccessible for poor farmers. Improved inputs (both seeds and chemicals) are therefore accessed only through secondary uncertified sources, which are often poor in quality and lead to further financial losses of the farmers, thus also deteriorating the trust in such inputs. Any agriculture intervention should therefore focus on seed system improvement such as improved seed reproduction and storage, improving commodity and price awareness of farmers (including e.g. electronic online solutions), supporting the local certification systems and quality control of both inputs and products to enhance selected commodity value-chains and also the advocacy efforts to promote more inclusive governmental extension programs (e.g. provision of the pro-poor input packages in FISP).

Governmental extension services in the area of Kalabo district (Farmers Training Center (FTC) staff,
Community Extension Officers (CEOs), Vocational Education Trainings (VETs)) are significantly limited in their work by funding, equipment and human capacity available for the community work in their assigned camps. The market based services on the other hand are observable trend in other provinces in Zambia, mainly driven by the private companies and their dealers and delegates. It is therefore highly advisable to support extension services based on market systems approach. For this matter, suggested intervention can support TVET education and employment of young professionals in agribusiness which can either be supported in general extension or in specific skills suitable for well identified value-chains relevant for the Western province (e.g. animal production and processing, irrigation, orchard management, etc.). Existing provincial research and education institutions can be supported– e.g. Mongu Trades Training Institute.