The past two years are a tribute to Zambian farmers: they have responded admirably to government efforts to promote maize production. Being the most important staple food in Zambia, maize surpluses contribute to food security and benefit the nation. But the smallest farmers in Zambia— those cultivating less than 2 hectares who account for over 70% of all the smallholder farms in the country —participated only marginally in the maize production expansion of 2010/11. These farmers received relatively little FISP fertiliser and sold very little maize, hence they were unable to benefit from the FRA producer price of 65,000 kwacha per bag. The farmers benefiting the most from the government’s expenditures on supporting maize prices were clearly those selling the most maize.This disaggregated picture of Zambia’s maize production expansion may reveal why rural poverty rates remain so high despite the record maize harvests in the past two years. The benefits of the two main poverty reduction programmes have been enjoyed disproportionately by the larger smallholder farmers who received more subsidised fertiliser per farm and sold substantially more maize than the 73% of farmers cultivating less than 2 hectares. In fact, about 30% of the relatively poor smallholder households actually had to purchase more maize and maize meal than they produced to meet their families’ food needs and hence were adversely affected by a support price
policy that raised maize prices in the countryside.
From a recent FSRP policy synthesis paper - Mountains of Maize, Persistent Poverty. The authors go on to recommend that future efforts to reduce rural poverty by the new government could focus on targeting subsidised FISP fertiliser to the smallest farmers. This would provide them with greater opportunities to produce a surplus and benefit from FRA support prices. Targeting subsidised fertiliser in this way would have a greater likelihood of reducing rural poverty. It all seems fairly obvious, but it was not so obvious to the last government.