Boosting production of fresh produce – fruit and vegetables – by smallholder farmers could drastically reduce rural poverty in Zambia. So says the Indaba Agriculture Policy Research Institute (IAPRI).
IAPRI found in research made available to africanfarming.com that the cultivation of a hectare or two of fresh produce increased income by 164%. Compared to this, maize would increase income by just 26%.
“Increasing participation of smallholder farmers in producing for fresh produce supply chains will increase their chances of moving out of poverty,” says IAPRI.
IAPRI further made a case to government to allow for a more flexible e-voucher system. The institute proposed that fresh produce farming inputs support should be included under the current Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP). IAPRI pointed out that most beneficiaries would be women who were poorer and had less land for agriculture activities.
IAPRI’s case was fortified by the fact that while Zambia had recently been recording a 10% growth in the agriculture sector, there had been no significant reduction in rural poverty. About 40% of Zambia’s population resided in the rural areas, and agriculture was their main source of livelihood.
“It is time for government to allocate more attention and resources to farming areas that have higher pay offs, such as cabbage, tomatoes and onions.”
Zambia’s policy focus since independence had been on a single crop – maize – that had for the past decade accounted for more than 50% of the national agricultural budget. However, the expenditure had not benefited 70% of the smallholder farmers who had produced nearly 75% of the nation’s staple food.
“Maize, being a low value commodity, cannot be a way out of poverty for this category of farmers,” IAPRI pointed out in its analysis.