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Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Lusaka Basic Needs Basket - May 2009

The Lusaka Basic Needs Basket for May has been released. Full JCTR Press Release and associated report below.

Press Release (9 June 2009)


The continued increase in the cost of food is hurting the Zambian economy and undercutting development prospects of the country as increases of food have multidimensional effects on various sectors of Zambian society, observes the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection as it releases its Basic Needs Basket for the month of May 2009.

The Basic Needs Basket which measures cost of living for an average family of six in Lusaka and other urban areas of Ndola, Kitwe, Luanshya, Kabwe, Livingstone, Mongu and Kasama has starkly revealed that local food prices on the Zambian market have continued to increase despite what would have been the case of experiencing some general reduction due to post harvest effects.

From costing K788,200 in the month of April 2009, the cost of basic food items for a family of six in Lusaka totalled K815,850. This is a clear manifestation of a rise in cost of living unaffected yet by seasonality influences. This nominal increase was mainly influenced by the cost of tomatoes, onions, green vegetables and dairy products. The Basic Needs Basket (BNB) research revealed unprecedented increases in Tomatoes and Onions of over 100%. Tomatoes increased from K4,700 to K10,500 per Kg. Onions on the other hand increased from K5,200 to K10,200. This could be explained by the limited local supply of the items leading to importing products at high prices. Similarly, green vegetables increased from K4,200 to K7,500 per Kg while meat increased from K18,600 to K19,500. Increases were also registered in milk, eggs, kapenta and cooking oil. On the other hand, reductions were recorded in the cost of mealie meal, from K67,300 to K62,500. Minimal reductions were also observed in sugar, bread, dry fish and beans.

The prevailing trend of unrelenting increases in food prices obviously worsens conditions for those who are already food insecure and may push more people into hunger and malnutrition. The effect of long term experience of unaffordable food cost could, for instance, be seen in the recently published Zambia Demographic Health Survey which revealed that 45% of the Zambian children were stunted, a sign of chronic malnutrition. This is aggravated by the high cost of non-food items such as housing, utility costs, etc., Adding these costs, the total BNB for May was K2,240,280 up from K2,219,230. “Fundamentally,” says Miniva Chibuye, Coordinator of the Social Conditions Programme, “high food prices and attendant inability to meet the necessary non-food items naturally lead to increase in demand for upward wage adjustments and also contributes to strikes as is currently obtaining in the health sector”.

However, the flip side to the argument of high food prices having negative impacts on Zambian society is the obvious argument that high food prices benefit the producers. “This is true to the extent that certain preconditions are put in place for rural populations to participate effectively in production and marketing arrangements,” observes Ms. Chibuye. Where these proper production and marketing arrangements are not in place it is actually rural population who bear the brunt of increased prices.

Agriculture has long been recognised as a key sector for the improvement of livelihoods. Thus, there is need to go beyond the rhetoric of problem identification to actual leveling of the challenges affecting agricultural development in the country. These challenges that must be practically addressed include improved infrastructure such as irrigation facilities and construction of all weather roads, access to credit facilities and promotion of sustainable agriculture methods. Successful implementation of these strategies will create a win-win situation for both urban and rural areas as it will be cheaper for small scale farmers to produce and market their agricultural produce therefore translating into more available and cheaper food items.

[For more information, contact the Social Conditions Programme of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection, P. O. Box 37774, Lusaka, Zambia; tel: 260-211-290410; fax: 260-211-290759; e-mail:; internet:]
Lusaka Basic Needs Basket - May 2009


  1. The government needs to do everything it can to increase food production.

  2. I have never been able to understand why the Basic Needs Basket lists breakfast meal rather than roller meal, although the latter costs less and is also better for health. Of course breakfast meal, like white bread, is more popular, but should popularity be a criterion?

  3. Modern container gardening makes it possible to grow produce almost anywhere, even with little or no experience. Tomatoes are an especially popular crop choice, so with the price for them and other fresh produce items rising so dramatically it makes more sense than ever to encourage the manufacture and use of containers by urban and peri-urban households. Advances in design can minimize fertiliser and water needs, as well as provide protection against most weeds or pests with minimal labour. Here's a 5 min video tour of an amateur container garden, chosen more or less at random from youtube:

    Like MrK suggests, Victory Gardens, but not just for people in the country or with big housing plots, people with sturdy balconies or small strips of land can still save money and improve their diets with a little effort. Almost any large, watertight container can be modified for re-use as a self-watering planter (as long as it originally stored non-toxic materials) with only a few additional parts (such as used plastic bottles and short lengths of non-corrosive piping). The three main potential bottlenecks in any large scale effort to increase container gardening will be initial access to soil in quantity, distribution of proper fertiliser mixtures, and supply of seeds or seedlings from nurseries. All are areas that local councils can facilitate by providing for responsible home or community composting of organic waste to make soil, information campaigns or public demonstrations to inform people about their potential for home food production, and provision of adequately sized plots and water supplies for urban nurseries.

  4. Murray,

    Cassava has a higher yield per hectare than maize, is more drought resistant, and requires less fertilizer to grow. I think drougth resistant crops should be encouraged, if only to take the pressure off the demand for maize.

    FARM-Africa Cassava project


    This is a small project in Kenya.

    Organic Farm Flourishing in a Slum

    It would be interesting to develop commercial organic farming.

    Organic Farming Video Tour, Australia

  5. On cassava harvesting and mechanization:

    Mechanization of cassava production in Colombia

    The two cassava planter prototypes that CLAYUCA has tested in Colombia have the capacity to plant two or three rows. Thre three-row model can plant 9.2 ha per day using foru workers (3 planting and 1 tractor driver); the two-row model can plant 6.2 ha per day using three workers (2 planters and 1 tractor driver). There are eight working hours per day. These results compare very favorably with the results obtained with traditional cassava planting systems, in which the planting of one hectare requires at least 7 man-days. These two models of mechanical planters are a viable alternative for cassava farmers, but the minimum area needed to recover the investment costs is 30 ha.

    From the Integrated Cassava Project (ICP) of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA),

    Postharvest Equipment


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