Hivos Regional Advocacy Manager for Sustainable Food in Southern Africa William Chilufya says his organization, in partnership with other CSOs, will on August 21 launch a study which seeks to contribute to the development of an agricultural diversification strategy for Zambia.

In a statement to News Diggers! Sunday, Chilufya stated that in partnership with Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR), Indaba Agriculture Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), Consumer Unit Trust Society (CUTS) and Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition (CSO-SUN) and Sustainable Diets for All (SD4ALL), Hivos wanted to help make crop diversification a reality.

“While calls for crop diversification are frequently heard from government and CSOs, there has been little systematic examination or agreement to date on how to do it. Hivos and Sustainable Diets for All (SD4ALL) partners Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR), Indaba Agriculture Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), Consumer Unit Trust Society (CUTS) and Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition (CSO-SUN) and have undertaken a study which explored the options for agricultural diversification in Zambia from multiple perspectives,
including those of farmers (both male and female), farmers’ organisations, policymakers, civil society, market actors and extension workers. The study is scheduled for launch on 21st August 2019,” read the statement.

“Zambia’s food system is not delivering enough affordable nutritious food for most of the populace. Maize dependency in Zambia greatly contributes to problems of poverty, malnutrition, vulnerability to drought, pests and diseases. The high proportion of arable land devoted to maize production contributes to poverty – both because maize is a low value cereal and because it restricts the economic multiplier effects of agriculture, by hindering the scope and scale of agro-processing, trading and input supply. The latest Zambia Demographics Health Survey report (ZDHS, 2018) revealed that the minimum acceptable diets is at 12% indicating that 88% of children do not eat diverse food frequently. Largely, as a result of monotonous and deficient diets, 35% of children under the age of five are stunted in Zambia.”

Chilufya stated that the study would also seek to highlight priorities and concerns of smallholder farmers.

“Through this study, Hivos hopes to contribute to the development of an agricultural diversification strategy at the national level by providing concrete ideas and recommendations, secondly to highlight the priorities and concerns of smallholder farmers on this issue and to generate evidence that supports the lobbying and advocacy work of the partners around a diversification agenda. And lastly contribute to an improved food system that delivers food and nutrition security. Crop diversification from an agricultural perspective is important as heavy reliance on a narrow range of crops, crop varieties and animal breeds brings long-term risks for agricultural production, biodiversity and livelihoods while undermining the ability of agriculture to adapt to climate change,” read the statement.

He stated that apart from improved nutrition, crop diversification also had other benefits like reducing fall army worm infestation.

“The 2018/2019 farming season received poor rainfall as a result of climate change, and a decline in maize production as most small scale farmers in Zambia rely greatly on rain for irrigation. According to the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU), the numbers of districts in need of food support are 68, more than half of the country’s 116 districts. This is a wakeup call for Zambia to think beyond maize, for food and nutrition security including income security. Maize, the most important grain crop in Zambia, is more vulnerable to drought than some other indigenous staple crops such as millet and sorghum. Crop diversification can improve resilience in a variety of ways; by increasing the ability to suppress pest outbreaks; buffering crop production from the effects of greater climate variability and extreme weather events; and improving soil fertility through diversification with leguminous crops. An example of the
importance of diversification is the major outbreak of the Fall Army worms that affect maize to a much larger extent than other crops. In an effort to control the Fall Army worms, promotion of crop diversification as it reduces Fall Army worm infestations and supports natural enemies,” read the statement.

“The launch of the beyond maize study will take place during the food change lab meeting on 21st August 2019. The Food Change Lab is a multi-stakeholder innovation process that aims to better understand problems in the Zambian food system, build coalitions of change, generate solutions, and test them on the ground. Organized by Hivos and IIED together with local Zambian partners, the Food Change Lab brings together stakeholders from civil society, government agencies, the private sector, farmers’ associations and international organizations. The lab started in Chongwe District assessing local agricultural practices and resulting dietary patterns together with local farmers, policy makers and civil society. And later the lab
shifted its focus to the national food system after adding partners with a national focus and as agricultural policy issues resurfaced. At the launch, Hivos will be evaluating the food change lab. We want to find out how this process, has strengthened collaboration among consumers, farmers, entrepreneurs, civil society and government to foster long term engagement, collective leadership and joint initiatives for improvement of Zambia food system.”