Simon Malambo, a local headman in the Southern Province’s Monze area, runs his 25ha farm on traditional land in close co-operation with his wife and children. He believes in collective decision-making and follows an open book policy with the farm’s finances.
“If anything happens to me today, my daughter, my wife or my son must be able to step in and continue farming. They must have adopted our business plan and know the year’s farming programme by heart.”
That’s why the family has regular meetings where they decide on a farming plan for the season. “We decide what crops we want to grow, how many hectares of each and everyone must know how much money we have. We set our goals and identify risks and challenges and we come up with a plan to manage them,” he says.
Simon has farmed this land since he left school in 1984. “I have never done anything but farming. What I am today, is because of farming.”
Of all his achievements, it is the ability to afford a good education for his children that pleases him most. Simon and his wife Osbent have seven children, of whom five have already completed grade 12. Three of them are furthering their studies at college. His two youngest children are still in primary school and two of his older children are farming with him.
GOOD SEED IS KEY
The family rotates their crop between maize, sunflower, groundnuts and sweet potato. The hectares of each varies every year, depending on how much money the family has available for seed.
Simon believes in buying good quality seed and attributes his maize yields of between four and 10 tons per hectare to the exclusive use of Pannar seed. It grows well in the clay soil with close to 1 000mm of rain per annum.
Simon says many farmers have grown too comfortable in the knowledge of a secure market for maize, thanks to government’s Food Reserve Agency. “We must steer away from monocropping. It depletes our soil,” he warns.
While he does sells some of his crop to the Food Reserve Agency, Simon also has the advantage of a rail siding passing close to his farm. People come from all over to buy produce, be it maize, groundnuts, sweet potatoes or chickens.
LIVE BROILERS SELL THEMSELVES
When finances permit, he buys chicks from a nearby farm and raises broilers – sometimes up to 300 at a time. “People know when the broilers are ready and they seem to appear out of nowhere to buy live chickens.”
He also has a herd of cattle comprising 38 cows and 12 bulls – all crosses between indigenous and exotic breeds. Simon gets between 12 and 15 calves a year and supplies mainly breeding bulls to other cattle farmers.
Farming on traditional land, he has the advantage of abundant grazing beyond the borders of his 25ha of cultivated land. He does, however feed his cattle during the winter months. “We plant about two hectares of yellow maize each year to supplement the animals’ diets.”
For parasite control he relies heavily on government’s veterinary services. Officials dip cattle at a communal dipping station Thursday. State veterinarians also regularly inspect and treat animals for diseases and internal parasites.
Simon uses oxen to harrow his fields after planting. He has bartered three of his tractors for cattle since he adopted conservation farming practices. He is a firm believer in this type of agriculture.
“I have been exposed to this way of farming through the Zambian National Farmers’ Union. It saves time, energy and fertiliser.”
‘My dream in life is to see people develop through agriculture.’
He plants and harvests by hand. The fertiliser, which he gets through government’s Farmer Input Support Programme, he also spreads by hand.
“We only put a line of fertilizer in the seed beds,” he explains.
Simon is a great believer in the potential of agriculture as a means of socio-economic upliftment for Zambia’s people. “My dream in life is to see people develop through agriculture.”