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Saturday, 27 August 2011

Why are farmers not harvesting all their maize?

Factors Affecting Un-harvested Hectares Planted to Maize, 2010/11
Source :  CSO/MACO/FSRP Crop Forecast Survey 2010/2011

This question is important because an increase in production of any crop over time stems from three possible sources: yield increases, increased area planted, and increased ratio of harvested to planted area. In Zambia's case the changes in the ratio of harvested to planted area between 2009/10 and 2010/11 has accounted for 28% of the growth in maize production compared to the prior 3 year period. Understanding how to manage the constraints in the graphic above becomes vital. The latest FSRP policy synthesis suggests the need for "more effective extension of moisture conserving and flood protecting agronomic practices to farmers may substantially promote maize production and yields in Zambia". 

For a useful insights regarding Zambia's maize policy challenges see the latest ACF-FSRP-MACO presentation - Zambia's Maize Policy Challenges : Issues and Options.


  1. The latest FSRP policy synthesis suggests the need for "more effective extension of moisture conserving and flood protecting agronomic practices to farmers may substantially promote maize production and yields in Zambia".

    With only 3% of arable land under permanent irrigation, I would say so.

    Also, there is the 1950s legacy of giant dams, which deprive neighboring areas of water and are subject to massive evaporation.

    In hot countries, water should be stored underground, in aquifers, which can be filled with cheap to implement rainwater catching ditches, and tapped with well and a pump.

    The point is that there is little money going into useful infrastructure like that.

    Check out this small animated video/trailer:

    (Youtube) Permaculture water harvesting, which is a video from permaculture guru Geoff Lawton.

  2. and again we come back to the point; why not grow other crops that require less water than maize ?

  3. or rather as the data suggests here, crops that require less fertiliser

  4. Mark,

    The obvious candidate is the "drought resistant" cassava. But it faces it's own challenges - see the post "Mantaining the cassava boom".

  5. There are a lot of low water requirement grains and vegetables. Root crops are the most obvious ones, and tehre is sorghum (also see this article - Ethiopian scientist wins World Food Prize for sorghum).

    What is also important, is that plant remains like stalks, leaves, etc. (anything not the crop itself like the grains or maize cobs) are put back onto the land. This builds soil fertility, and at some point makes it unnecessary to use fertilizer.

    Also, mixed cropping and the use of strips of weed can eliminate the need for pesticides.

    Maybe there should be courses on the implementation of this book:

    The Natural Way Of Farming, by Masanobu Fukuoka

    The Fukuoka method is relatively (local) knowledge intensive, but uses: no plowing, no chemicals, no pesticides, no fertilizer. In other words, the farmer grows everything that is needed for inputs. The basis of his method is returning crop residues (stalks, leaves) to the field, crop rotation, well timed irrigation.

    The Natural Way Of Farming is the workbook for Masanobu Fukuoka's conceptual treatise, The One Straw Revolution.


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