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Wednesday, 31 October 2007

When poor farmers get left behind...

A new report published by various Norwegian agencies argues that Zambia's poorest farmers have been left behind by Government and World Bank support for contract farming and poor access to adequate inputs:

Zambia is quite capable of growing enough food to feed its population. The problem that the poor are too poor to buy food and that farmers do not have access to adequate inputs to raise their productivity. Agricultural policy in Zambia - of the government and the World Bank - is geared more to the better off farmers than the majority of vulnerable, hungry smallholders. Governments have taken only minimal steps to develop competitive markets that might deliver inputs to farmers at lower prices while the latest farmers are bypassed both by very limited fertilizer subsidies - since they cannot afford them - and the promotion of contract farming, which is geared towards the better-off farmers. With massively reduced extension services -not to mention poor health care and limited access to safe water - farmers have been left to themselves, perhaps to go to the wall, as a matter of policy.


  1. Zambia needs a government that puts the upliftment of the subsistence farmers and SMEs first.

    Having said that, I never get why farmers aren't producing their own fertilizer and have to wait for the government.

    Liquid fertilizer can be made by taking plant material and letting it seep in plain water for a couple of days or weeks. The more the plant is like the plant that is grown, the more fertilizer salts are transferred to the liquid.

    Also, farmers can grow earthworms, whose castings can either be applied directly to the land or again can be seeped in water to make a very high quality tea.

    And both examples given are 100% organic.

  2. Check this out short clip on applying permaculture in Israel/Jordan (I couldn't make out which side of the border). I think permaculture and keyline are the cutting edge of agriculture, at least in the West (I don't know enough about traditional agricultural systems).

    Greening the Desert

  3. "I never get why farmers aren't producing their own fertilizer and have to wait for the government." - Mrk

    It sounds to me like those techniques are okay for smaller farmers but not for those who want to become bigger.

    Also presumably their different "grades" of fertiliser for different crops?

  4. Cho,

    Organic fertilizer can easily be made in quantity.

    How much they can make is only restricted by the size of the containers they have. After all, we are only talking about vegetable matter and water.

    A 10 gallon container can easily make about 10 gallons of highly concentrated, liquid fertilizer that can be added to the irrigation water.

  5. MrK,

    So what do you think might be the problem then?

    Know how?

  6. I have no idea. :) Lack of interest in agriculture? Existing chemical company monopolies? Only the government can provide clarity on that. It would be interesting to see anyone from the government comment on the issue of organic fertilizer use and production.

    What would be ideal, if there was a move to use sustainable agriculture techniques throughout agriculture. That would truly make the country food sufficient, and would actually improve the quality of the soil over time instead of deplete it.

    (And just to correct, I typed: " The more the plant is like the plant that is grown, the more fertilizer salts are transferred to the liquid." I meant to say - "the more the plant is like the plant that is grown, the more it's fertilizer salts will be similar to what is needed.")

    The government could use a sustainable agriculture policy.

    Although, the Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia (OPPAZ) already exists:

    This page also features an interesting survey of what the farmers who took part in their project actually want:


    An article on a green manuring project in Zambia, using nitrogen fixing plants to increase the availabity of nitrogen to crops (Zambian Fertilizer Trees Improve Soil, Maize Production):

    General article on organice agriculture and the FAO's support for it, from the FAO website:

    (quote: " The FAO Report strongly suggests that a worldwide shift to organic agriculture can fight world hunger and at the same time tackle climate change." - It sounds like there would be a lot of grants available, considering how these issues are topical.)

  7. I assume that the University of Zambia Agriculture Department must be looking into these methods. At Mount Mukulu Research Centre they must also be aware of such methods.

    The problem in Zambia is insufficient resourcing of research into agricultural techniques. Its also possible that there's a gulf between those who know and those who hold the policy reins. You know the chaps at the Ministry.

    Its quite interesting because most members of Government are farmers! I suspect large farmers who don't need simple methods. May be our agriculture policy is unbalanced, as the report suggests.


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