African Journal of
Agricultural Research

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Agric. Res.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1991-637X
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJAR
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 6858

Full Length Research Paper

Seasonal challenges and opportunities for smallholder farmers in a mining district of Zambia

Bridget Bwalya Umar
  • Bridget Bwalya Umar
  • Environmental Studies Department, University of Zambia, Geography Lusaka, Zambia.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 02 September 2015
  •  Accepted: 12 November 2015
  •  Published: 31 March 2016


Zambia’s efforts to diversify from mining to agriculture have seen many interventions aimed at improving the productivity of smallholder farmers. These efforts have produced poor results, as productivity has remained low. This study used 121 semi structured interviews, two focus group discussions and several key informant interviews to investigate smallholder farmers’ challenges over the course of a farming season, focusing on the main farming operations during different phases of the farming cycle. Results show that labour shortages during land preparation and weeding; and limited access to mineral fertilizer and hybrid seed constrain most households (83%) ability to increase total cultivated land. All the households engaged in rain-fed maize (Zea mays) production, while only 33% produced irrigated crops. The over dominance of maize production was a response to the opportunity provided by state subsidization of inputs and maize pricing, as well as the liberal macro-economic environment. Post-harvest losses due to pests were reported by 42.1% of the respondents; 25% cited high transport costs while 25% lamented the low market prices for farm produce immediately after harvest as important challenges. Proximity to an international border and an atmosphere that encourage private sector investment and cross border trade were important opportunities for the famers to sell off their production. Additionally, being in a relatively highly populated mining district provided local market opportunities not available to farmers in rural areas. It is concluded that understanding of challenges and opportunities over the course of a farming season would aid development actors in designing and implementing appropriate interventions.

Key words: Agricultural productivity, weeding, markets, rain-fed, farming inputs, Mufulira.