How Africa RISING technologies are improving farmers’ lives in Zambia this season (2016/2017) THE LISTENING POST

The leadership team of the IITA-led Africa RISING project in East and Southern Africa recently concluded two legs of monitoring visits to project sites in Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania. The monitoring visits which were aimed at assessing the status and progress of implementation of various project activities by partners took place in two legs: 15 – 22 February in Malawi and Zambia, and 21 – 31 March in Tanzania.

Since 2016 and with funding from USAID Zambia Country Mission, Africa RISING project activities have been implemented via the “Africa RISING going to scale in the Eastern Province of Zambia Project”. The project aims at bringing validated agricultural technologies and delivery mechanisms to scale and fill existing research gaps with semi-mature technologies.

During the monitoring visit, various project activities being implemented by different project partners at various sites were visited. This photo report captures the activities visited and the voices of farmers regarding some of the agricultural technologies being promoted by the project team.

Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) from the ZARI research station screen house into the hands of thousands of farmers

The Africa RISING going to scale in Eastern Province of Zambia project is working to extend the adoption of OFSP by farmers building on 4 years of work funded by USAID Zambia Mission and implementation by the International Potato Center (CIP) and Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI).

Through activities implemented by the project, OFSP is fast becoming a household meal and a major source of income for majority of farmers who have specialized as decentralized vine multipliers (DVMs). Currently, the project is working with 214 DVMs through an intricate and strategic network that ensures sweetpotato planting material moves from the research station to the farmers.

To ensure that farmers always have disease free planting materials, the project provides them with trainings on how to identify diseases and how to isolate their farm from nearby sweet potato fields to prevent disease transmission. The project team also regularly reminds the DVMs to come to Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI) Msekera research station after sometime for new planting materials.

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.

A chat with an OFSP decentralized vine multiplier

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.

Improving the legume seed delivery systems in Zambia

The Interntional Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and ZARI are partnering under the Africa RISING going to scale in Eastern Zambia project to make high quality legume seeds accessible to smallholder farmers in Zambia. The focus legumes of the project are: cowpea, pigeon pea, soybean, and groundnut. Key traits assessed for the seeds being multiplied and distributed to farmers (in partnership with private sector organizations) include: drought tolerance, resistance to endemic pests and diseases, end-user preferred traits and high yields on farmers’ fields. The breeder seed produced from a plot like this one will therefore be passed to the private sector producers of foundation seed. The foundation seed will in turn be fed into a network of certified seed producers that include seed companies and community-based seed out grower schemes.

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.

Breaking the mould: progress of Aflasafe trials

Agricultural production in Zambia is based mainly on maize and groundnuts as the main source of energy and proteins, respectively. However, Aflatoxin contamination is a big problem in the maize and groundnut value chains. Aflatoxins are potent human carcinogens that can lead to instantaneous death in the event of acute toxicity. The Aflasafe product is a biocontrol that is applied to maize and groundnut to reduce Aflatoxins during both crop development and post-harvest storage, and throughout the value chain.

Through the Africa RISING going to scale in Eastern Province of Zambia Project, IITA is implementing various activities with farmers and several local and international partner institutions to demonstrate Aflsafe product value to stakeholders in the maize and groundnut value chain and demonstrate Aflsafe product efficacy. The end goal is to get the regulatory approval by the Zambia Government for commercial production of Aflasafe in the country so that the product can be available for use by farmers.

A dossier for the pre-registration of the Aflasafe biocontrol pesticide has been submitted to the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) as part of initial steps to achieve commercial registration of Aflasafe in Zambia.
Leah Phiri, a farmer from Kapasa Village, Change Agricultural Camp in Zambia holding a packet of the Aflasafe biocontrol product.

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.

Pigeon pea ratooning and maize intercrop trials

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.

Francis Zimba (center, right) from Hoya Camp, Lundazi District is experimenting with the double-up legume.

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.

A ripping - direct seeder conservation agriculture (CA) trial in Hoya Camp, Lundazi District.
Conservation agriculture trials for maize-legume intercropping and maize – legume rotations are also ongoing.

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.

Africa RISING team visited the COMACO Ltd. manufacturing plant where they were shown various aspects of the company's processing of different foods and livestock feed.

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.

Various activities going on at COMACO Ltd.: Factory workers at COMACO operating a machine that dehusks groundnuts which will later be used to process peanut butter (top left photo). A fuel block made out of groundnut husks at COMACO. The company uses dried up groundnut husks to manufacture these fuel blocks which they will put in kiln to light up the fire when roasting groundnuts which part of the process in manufacture of peanut butter (top center and right photos). Roasted peanuts being processed into peanut butter (bottom left). A staff packages the peanut butter (bottom right).
Michael Ngulube, DACO Chipata District accompanied the Africa RISING team for the field visits and expressed strong government support for the activities being implemented by the project in Chipata District.
Dr. Harry Ngoma, USAID Zambia Food Security Specialist also joied the Africa RISING team for the field visits.

Speaking at the end of the monitoring visit in Zambia, Dr. Ngoma lauded the implementation of activities by all project partners.

“There is quite some impressive progress, from last year with the activities. I will encourage the team to keep their feet on the pedal to make sure these technologies reach the smallholder farmers . A lot has been invested to ensure this goal is met,”he said.

Africa RISING website

Photos in this story on Flickr

Implementing partners

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Jonathan Odhong'
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All photo credits: Jonathan Odhong'/IITA

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