Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) screen house at the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI) Msekera Research Station. Since it was established in 2013, at least 9,200 cuttings have been disseminated to farmers (decentralized vine multipliers, DVMs) from this screen house. The DVMs then multiply the vines and sell it to meet the growing local demand for OFSP vines in Zambia's Eastern Province.
It is from this screen house at ZARI Msekera research station that disease free planting materials for two OFSP varieties – Chiwoko and Olympia are supplied to farmers (decentralized vine multipliers) for multiplication. Of the two OFSP varieties, Olympia is more prolific in terms of vine multiplication and is also highly preferred by farmers due its root yield and taste.
On station evaluation of new OFSP varieties is also ongoing at the ZARI Msekera research station. The project team is bringing in new varieties to replenish the varieties available to farmers. Data is being collected on the yields, content of vitamin A of these new varieties and drought resistance. On farm testing of some of these varieties with farmers is also ongoing.
OFSP vine multiplier per excellence! Epulani Daka from Chiwoko Agriculture Camp in Machinga District has been a vine multiplier since 2013.
Vasti Daka usually helps her father, Epulani to prepare the OFSP vines for sale. When the Africa RISING monitoring team visited Epulani's home, Vasti and her father were busy working to ensure they deliver 6,000 OFSP vines that a local NGO had placed an order for.
“The first time I heard about OFSP, I never imagined it would be such a success. To be honest I took it just to experiment and out of ‘polite courtesy’ to the team which came to introduce OFSP to us,” notes Epulani. "However, after becoming so successful in OFSP farming and vine multiplication, I have never looked back!"
From the income he has earned from selling OFSP vines and roots, Epulani has built a new house, started a shop and even bought a vehicle which he now uses for taxi services. He admits that his sources of income have now been diversified.
Right at the front of Epulani’s home, stands a billboard announcing that he is a certified decentralized vine multiplier for the Africa RISING project. Epulani is also quite fortunate that his home is right next to the highway, this gives him an advantage in terms of clientele access to him as opposed to the other vine multipliers in Chiwoko Camp.
To ensure effective scaling of OFSP, the project team has employed various strategies that are paying off in a big way. They include:
- training vine multipliers on how to market their vines,
- clustering vine multipliers with agro-dealers to enhance utilization of the agro dealer-DVM model,
- strengthening partnership with the education, health, and nutrition agencies from government and nongovernmental organizations so as to link the promotion of OFSP integration to the existing farming systems,
- developing and airing agronomic and nutritional radio messages,
- preparing and mounting marketing billboards,
- installing demonstration sites at schools (produce is fed to pupils), to enable pupils to relay nutritional messages to parents, and
- using drama to disseminate nutritional knowledge.
Other key points from the chat with Epulani:
- As an experienced OFSP farmer, he also trains his fellow farmers to supply vines, giving them tips about how he has been able to do vine multiplication successfully.
- He is happy that in recent times there has been a lot of demand for OFSP because people have been sensitized about the benefits of consuming OFSP.
- He was the first farmer, back in 2009 from Chiwoko Agriculture Camp to grow sweet potato for sale, however since the introduction of OFSP and a lot of marketing by the project team, almost everybody grows it now. Tobacco, Cotton and Maize were the crops he used to grow before switching to sweet potato.
- Now he grows only three crops – sweetpotato, groundnut and maize. Out of his 16 acres, he grows OFSP on 9 acres and 7 acres divided between maize and groundnut.
- Of the 3 crops, he gets the most income from sweet potato. He thinks this is because of the high demand within the community created by the increased awareness about the value of consuming OFSP. The benefits of OFSP, for example, richness in vitamin A have been heavily advertized in the rural communities through radio programs.
- Epulani likes to share his experiences and has featured as part of a radio program cast (run by the project in partnership with one of the community radio stations) aimed at educating fellow farmers in the region. The radio station used by the project – Radio Breeze has a wide coverage and this helps the project to reach a large number of people. “These radio programs are quite popular!” he says.
- Because the size of his OFSP farm is quite big, Epulam hires extra labor from his church members and other casuals.
- He started small , but has gradually over the years expanded the area of land under which he grows OFSP to the current size.
- In his opinion, vine multiplication is more lucrative for him than the roots because he has little competition when he sells vines as opposed to OFSP roots.
Soybean breeder seed multiplication plot set up by IITA at the ZARI Msekera Research Station.
Nodules forming at the roots of a soybean plant. Soybean nodulation is initiated in the early vegetative stages of plant development. Applying an inoculant (specifically Rhizobium) helps the plant to more effectively fix biological nitrogen thereby improving soil fertility as well as improving the crop yield and quality of the grain.
The project team is implementing activities to promote inoculation activities by farmers and also conduct efficacy tests for the inoculants available from agrodealers in Zambia. This is because the efficacy of these formulations is unknown as they are stored in varying environmental conditions (e.g. temperatures) in the agrodealers’ shops. The results from these trials will help in making recommendations for proper inoculant management along the different marketing channels.
Cowpea seed multiplication at Good Nature Seed Company Ltd (formerly ZASAKA Seed Company Ltd.)
Pigeonpea seed multiplication at Good Nature Seed Company Ltd. (formerly ZASAKA Seed Company Ltd.)
Through activities being implemented under the Africa RISING going to scale in Zambia project, IITA and ICRISAT supply private sector seed companies like Good Nature Seed Ltd. with high quality (pigeonpea, soybean, groundnut and cowpea) breeder seed for multiplication. Good Nature Seed was previously faced with the challenge of not being able to get good quality legume seed germplasm to multiply for subsequent sale to farmers. They currently work with 2,200 farmers on their out grower scheme. From their 40 hectare farm, are multiplying: soybean foundation seed on 22 hectares, pigeonpea foundation seed on 6 hectares, groundnut foundation seed on 6 hectares and cowpea foundation seed on 4 hectares. The goal of Good Nature Seed Ltd. is to produce quality and consistent supply of legume seed for the Zambian market.
Leah is one of the 214 lead farmers working with the project team to demonstrate the value and efficacy of Aflasafe product.
Sustainable intensification of low input maize/legume systems
The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is working with various project partners on testing and demonstrating different sustainable intensification options for low input maize-legume systems.
This trial is premised on the understanding that timing of ratooning the pigeon pea is critical in ensuring that farmers harvest full benefits of the various uses to which the crop is put and yet various ratooning times have been advocated in the region. How does the ratooning time affect Biological Nitrogen Fixation, grain yield or weed populations for example? This trial is part of wider trials and demonstrations for farmers being conducted by the team to show the relative advantages of conservation agriculture in Zambia.
The doubled up legume intercrop trials (pigeonpea-soybean) are taking place for the second season in Africa RISING Zambia after showing impressive results and acceptance by farmers working in Africa RISING Malawi. In the highly successful pigeonpea-groundnut doubled-up system, pigeonpea and groundnut are compatible for intercrops as they have different architecture and growth habits, ensuring minimal competition for light, water and nutrient resources between the component crops.
Through the Africa RISING going to scale in Eastern Province of Zambia Project (and the Africa RISING – SIMLEZA project before it) in Zambia; farmers have tested and are adopting different conservation agriculture practices after seeing the benefits of implementing them over the past 6 years. The benefits of benefits of conservation agriculture can typically be achieved in 2-5 cropping seasons, especially in drought-prone, rain-fed areas. Large out-scaling of CA and its components is currently happening through mother-and-baby trials in Chipata, Lundazi and Sinda and compliment other out-scaling initiatives implemented by the Catholic Relief Services and the Conservation Farming Unit in the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture.
Unlocking the potential in public-private partners arrangements
Africa RISING going to scale in Eastern Province of Zambia project team paid a courtesy call to Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) Ltd. Offices and production facilities in Chipata, Zambia. COMACO is a Zambian-registered non-profit company that forms business partnerships with rural communities living in areas of important biodiversity. In the spirit of conservation, COMACO links villagers with urban consumers through a value chain of environmentally smart products that drives solutions for land management, food security, and improved rural incomes.
In the context of the Africa RISING going to scale in Eastern Province of Zambia Project, CIMMYT is partnering with COMACO to increase the knowledge exchange and explore new scaling opportunities for the already proven technologies with their wide network of farmers.