One sunny morning I’m talking to Mr Kimono Wendo, a Congolese refugee and farmer living in Meheba Refugee Settlement in the North-Western Province of Zambia. Mr Kimono tells me of his 17 year struggle to provide food for his family by growing maize in the rainy season and small patches of vegetables in the dry season, using nothing but a bucket for irrigation.
His story is typical of farmers living in one of the poorest, most remote and least developed parts of Zambia. Most farmers own less than one hectare of land to grow produce to feed their families. However even with a very small plot of land farmers can produce a surplus to sell in the market by investing in productivity enhancing farm inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and new technologies. The challenge Mr Kimono and other farmers in the Refugee Settlement face is getting access to the right farm inputs and the knowledge on how to use them. Private sector companies have been slow to see farmers as potentially profitable customers or to offer them technology, inputs, advice or finance, viewing serving farmers like Mr Kimono as too risky.
International Development Enterprises is running a project in North-Western Province that is changing this situation. The WIN or (Wealth creation through Irrigation in the North-Western Pro… Project is a collaborative effort between the European Union and a mining company Barrick Lumwana which is stimulating the private sector to serve farmers in the horticulture value chain and catalysing market linkages so that farmers can take advantage of increasing investment in the mining sector. The projects’ ultimate aim is to sustainably raise the incomes of 4,000 farming households by an average of €290 per annum by using the following strategies:
- Training local farmers in high value horticulture so that they can take advantage of the markets becoming available due to investment in the mining industry
- Developing a sustainable network of Farm Business Advisers. FBAs are local entrepreneurs that earn commission from the private sector for selling a range of agricultural products and providing advice to farmers.
- Working with private sector actors in the agricultural supply chain to create ‘last mile’ input supply chains closer to farmers, so that farmers can access what they need to produce quality fruits and vegetables.
- Catalysing market linkages so that farmers are linked to markets, including mine houses, for their produce.
- Improving access to finance so that smallholders can invest in inputs and technologies necessary for horticulture production.
Now half way through the four year project I’m pleased to report that progress has been rapid. 3,220 farming households have entered commercial horticulture production, earning on average an additional £237 per year for their hard work. Each household benefits from being connected to a network of 40 Farm Business Advisors (FBAs) trained under the project, so they can access the products and knowledge they need to improve production. They can also buy inputs through tiny shops located in the heart of farmer communities owned by 30 small-scale agro dealers trained through the project. iDE created a “last-mile” input supply chains by strengthening the business relationship between national input suppliers such as ZAMSEED, a large regional supplier Dawako Enterprises and FBAs and agro-dealers.
Whilst the results are strong two main challenges remain. The first is ensuring sufficient access to finance to support year round production and the second is meeting the often stringent requirements of the high value market buyers. Farmers are already starting to supply produce to high value markets, including Kipushi Border Open Market and arrangements for them to supply to All Terrain Services, a company that supplies Barrick Lumwana and other mines in North Western Province are in progress – however they need to improve the consistency of supply of high quality horticultural produce to access markets like these in the long term.
iDE’s flexible business-based approach means adjusting activities to meet these challenges head on. The team are very optimistic of a positive outcome, as there is a golden business opportunity for smallholder farmers like Mr Wendo to meet the growing demand for produce from workers in the surrounding copper mines and other emerging markets in the region. Increasing investment in the mining sector in NW province has led to a significant increase in demand for horticultural produce which was not being met from local sources, with fruits and vegetates being sourced from outside the province, from as far away as South Africa. Today, with better access to agricultural inputs and advice Mr Kimono Wendo believes that one day soon he too will be able to sell his produce to mines in the surrounding area.
This blog was written by Sam Harvey in celebration of Europe Day on the 9th of May. iDE would like to acknowledge the tremendous support of the EU in funding our efforts to increase the incomes and livelihoods of the rural poor in Africa and Asia. Projects iDE UK is currently implementing using EU funding include The Wealth creation through Irrigation in the North-Western Province Project in Zambia, The Agriculture and Nutrition Extension Project in Nepal and Bangladesh, the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security Enhancement project in Ethiopia and the SANYA Kagni project in Burkina Faso.