Zambian farmers bemoan high cost of soil testing

Zambian farmers are complaining about the high cost of soil testing. It costs K50 to test one element, while a comprehensive test will put you back K1 000.

Scores of farmers interviewed by Africanfarming.com said the cost is too high. It is compounded by transport costs because of centralised testing facilities.

“With climatic changes, soil testing is now an essential cost for a farmer, but in our situation this is too high,” said Tobias Njamba, a farmer of Chibombo in Central Province.

He has to incur further transport costs as there are no facilities for soil testing in the district.

In farming, soil testing refers to the analysis of a soil sample to determine nutrient content, composition and other characteristics such as acidity or pH levels. This helps to determine fertility and the growth potential of planted crops.

Njamba says most labs recommend a soil test of 10 – 20 elements for every 20 – 30 acres of a field to be planted.

“A comprehensive test will leave you out of pocket by more than K1 500. This takes into account other costs such transport and incidentals,” he said.

While farmers are unanimous about the importance of soil testing, many of them said they skipped the tests because of its prohibitive cost.

“One has to realise that this is an added cost that has to be borne by the farmer, but the markets are insensitive as people still want to buy maize cheaply,” said Tobias Musonda.

Musonda recommends the decentralisation of testing facilities to encourage farmers to make use thereof. This will in turn lead to better yields.


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