Herbs and spices: Going organic for chilli sauce in Zambia

Smallholder farmers across Zambia are supplying a local agri-processing company with organically-grown chilli and garlic to produce pesticide-free condiments for sale across the country, and southern Africa at large.

In Zambia, vegetable farmers are accessing a sustainable and reliable market for their chilli and garlic produce © Tommy Trenchard/Alamy Stock Photo

In Zambia, the organic production and processing of chilli and garlic is providing over 800 small-scale farmers across the country with increased incomes. The farmers supply Lumuno Organic Farms, a processing enterprise based in Chongwe district, east of Lusaka, which produces a range of value-added products, including chilli sauce and chilli-garlic sauce.  

Launched in 2007, Lumuno Organic Farms was established by Khama Mbewe to reduce chilli losses in the country. Today, the company produces over 20,000 bottles of chilli and chilli-garlic sauce per month and the enterprise is valued at over €420,000. “I know that Zambia’s future lies in agriculture. I thought I could make myself useful to farmers in the country if I invested my time and money in organic farming to produce pesticide-free crops,” Mbewe says. 

To acquire the necessary technology, equipment and training to increase the factory’s processing capacity and to develop its product for export, Lumuno received a USAID Strategic Partnership Grant in 2012. “The grant is upgrading the current chilli processing line and establishing an outgrower arrangement to boost production capacity from 9,000 to 20,000 bottles of chili sauce per month,” says Mbewe. As well as increasing production for Lumuno, the outgrower arrangement provides small-scale vegetable-producers with a sustainable and reliable market supplying the company. Mercy Banda, a 49-year-old chilli and garlic farmer says the scheme has changed her life. “Before, I used to grow chilli and garlic for household consumption only. But now, I grow it on 0.8 ha of land and it has proven to be more profitable and less labour-intensive than maize,” she says.  

Over 500 farmers have received training in the organic production of chilli and garlic and post-harvest handling from Lumuno Farms in partnership with Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture. “Extension officers taught us about crop management – from land preparation to post-harvest management. I never had such knowledge in my whole life as a rural farmer,” says Chisomo Phiri, a beneficiary of the outgrower scheme. Permanent secretary for Lusaka province, Brigadier-General Emelda Chola, says that small-scale maize farmers should consider diversifying into high value crops such as chilli and herbs, and commends Lumuno for signing a €40,000 (ZKW 470,300) agreement with the European-Africa Caribbean Pacific Liaison Committee to train small-scale farmers in organic production. 

With an increased amount of produce to package and distribute, the company currently employs 15 full-time staff members as well as over 100 seasonal workers. Increased production has also enabled Lumuno to supply local Spar supermarkets and enter into negotiations with Zambian company ShopRite for a potential deal. As well as distributing its products locally, since receiving the USAID grant, Lumuno has been exporting its innovative products to the Democratic Republic of Congo and countries from the Southern African Development Community, including Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.  

Doreen Chilumbu Nawa

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.