Greater access to improved groundnut seed in Zambia and training in crop management is increasing smallholder productivity and market access in the face of diminishing cotton prices.
Small-scale farmers in the Chipata, Katete, Minda, Nyimba and Petauke districts of Zambia are moving away from cotton production, and its dwindling harvest prices, to cultivate new and improved groundnut seed varieties. The drought tolerant and high yielding groundnut seeds are helping to increase food and nutrition security in the country, as well as the yields and livelihoods of smallholder farmers. The improved seeds are the result of a research and development project, Strengthening Food Legume Seed Delivery Systems in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, which has been funded by the Agricultural Productivity Programme for Southern Africa (APPSA). Efforts of the project, introduced in 2014, have so far reached over 1.4 million direct beneficiaries across the three countries.
Through the initiative, farmers are also being linked up with private seed companies to secure guaranteed markets for their production. In the Petauke district of Zambia, for example, farmers have been partnered with the Unit Seed Company since 2014, and the project provided smallholders with enough basic groundnut seed to plant 68 ha. Before the cropping season was over in 2015, the seed was already secured at a purchase price of ZMW 6.47 (€0.45) per kg by the company.
“I have found seed production of certified groundnut seed to be beneficial in terms of income generation, which has enabled me to buy cattle, a plough, build a house, and purchase 22 bags of fertiliser,” says Lenard Daka, lead farmer from Felesiano village in Petauke. Daka asserts that before the programme was introduced, most farmers were struggling to meet their needs as their cotton harvests could not be sold for lucrative prices at the market. “Other farmers in my group are now able to provide food for their families and school materials for their children,” he continues.
Emelia Chikubabe from Kumanzi village, also in Petauke, says that after receiving training in entrepreneurship skills, crop management and conservation agriculture under the project, she is a more knowledgeable farmer. “I used to plant the same crop year after year, rather than rotating my crops or planting a range of crops together to grow more, maintain soil health and diversify my family’s diet,” she says. “I have learned that while indigenous seeds are important to protect genetic diversity, improved seeds help farmers to adapt to changing climate conditions, fight crop diseases and produce higher yields,” she adds.
Through collaborative research efforts in the three APPSA implementing countries, over 40 seed varieties have been developed and released for other crops, including for legumes, maize, rice and sorghum. “Some of the improved crop varieties have been developed with a focus on high yield and quality, early maturity, adaptation for abiotic and biotic stresses, as well as tolerance to major diseases and pests of the specific crop,” says Monica Murata, APPSA programme coordinator.