Farming in Zambia is very different to farming in the UK. According to the current USAID Country Development Cooperation Strategy, rural poverty in Zambia is approximately 80%, with 68% of the population living below the national poverty line. It is not the case that if you are poor the State will look after you – there is practically no welfare system. There are also very few jobs and many people have no access to credit. Many Zambians simply have no money. They depend on the food that they grow for their survival. To make matters worse, a legacy of inappropriate agricultural techniques and practices introduced from Europe means many farmers are finding their land is becoming less fertile. Paul Collier in ‘The Bottom Billion’ describes these people as ‘living and dying in fourteenth-century conditions’.
Although some farmers use oxen to plough their fields the most common method of tilling the land is by hand and hoe. If a household can’t grow enough to feed their family then they will usually go hungry. If they hold back seed to plant for next year then their family may have to endure a longer period of hunger. There is currently little incentive to
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plan ahead or to take risks. Change involves taking risks and if it fails their children might starve.
That being said there is sufficient water, a good climate and plenty of fertile land of which only 15% is cultivated. The land is owned by the state with responsibility for allocation of farmland largely delegated through tribal chiefs to village headmen. Most farming households don’t use all of their land as they don’t have enough resources to farm it all. There is no shortage of charities providing good and free training on how to improve agricultural production. These charities often find it prohibitively expensive, however, to provide enough staff to ensure the one-to-one continuing support that is often needed to embed the changes.
ZaRP provides the one-to-one continuing support needed to enable farming communities to adopt more sustainable and productive farming practices. ZaRP does this at no cost to the charities providing the training.