Zambia’s stable political environment and high GDP growth in the past decade has belied the poverty and hunger affecting its rural population.
While many farmers and rural citizens in Zambia seem to eat enough and make their livelihoods off of agriculture, a maize monoculture has led to malnutrition and a worrying lack of diversification. Any environmental or economic shocks have a severe effect on rural farmers who are completely dependent on the single crop. It also means that children, who make up a large proportion of the Zambian population, are not receiving proper nutrition, which affects physical growth and health and also negatively affects performance in school.
Our long-term solution for rural farmers in Zambia lies in the creation of social enterprises. This will allow us to develop and in the process, train farmers to develop their own enterprises—starting from agriculture and spreading into livestock and fisheries.
The cultivation of maize is currently the main source of income for most of the rural population. Since it is the most profitable crop to grow in the short term, other more nutritious crops have been traded for short-term profit. Commercialization of a more diverse nutritional basket will mean more nutrition is available to the farmers and their families, as well as protecting farmers from being severely effected by exogenous shocks to the maize market. Up until this point, Zambian farmers have not diversified their crops because of a lack of awareness, lack of opportunities, and economic circumstances that have pushed their crop portfolio to its current state.
In order create a lasting and sustainable change requires both diversifying sources of income and improving performance on the current activity of growing maize. This requires increasing awareness of more effective and efficient farming techniques, educating farmers about the importance of a diversified nutritional basket, and expanding farmers’ capacity to take on these changes.
One obstacle to social enterprise is lack of access to adequate funds. Farmers can jumpstart their enterprises by taking out microcredit loans to invest in new seeds and technology. Economic empowerment will produce a lasting and sustainable change where aid creates dependency. Farmers will have full ownership of their enterprises.
The aquaculture industry is still in early stages of development in Zambia, but Zambia produces among the most fish in Sub-Saharan Africa and there is great potential for future growth at the commercial and rural level. Pond culture is used in rural fisheries, which are often family-owned and for subsistence. One of the barriers to the growth of fisheries in rural areas has been a lack of technical training, but families and communities that have taken on aquaculture have found it to be a way to make a livelihood and provide a stable source of protein where the land cannot support other livestock.
As Humanity Africa’s own social enterprises take off, our staff will have greater capacity and more resources to train farmers and provide support on the ground. Once operations have stabilised there will be increased opportunities in areas such as poultry and fish farming, or aquaculture.