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Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP) market-first approach
A successful agribusiness model in Zambia
12 May 2009


Within development circles, many programs have emerged that assisted farmers to increase crop production per acreage to ensure enough food availability for household consumption. While these programs and initiatives were primarily successful in addressing household food security, they largely failed to open up markets opportunities where farmers could sell produce beyond those required for subsistence. It is estimated that 90% of Africa’s farmers produce for subsistence and could not be classified commercial. The classification aside, most of such farmers obtain very important household consumables through the sale of portions of their seasonal agricultural production making the need for markets as crucial as the planning of their production activity itself.

Extension staff in Africa’s national ministries of agriculture faced the brunt of farmers’ frustrations when after receiving the sound technical advice, they only had to watch helplessly whilst their resultant increased production got rotten for lack of markets.

Taking a page from the numerous reports of such occurrences across the continent, Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP) committed itself to a market-first philosophy right from the onset. No longer was research going to be conducted with farmers that never met the needs of the intended markets. This posture of thought is brought to bear on projects that finally get implemented.

In Zambia, ASNAPP has partnered the Sun International Hotels to build a vegetable production network using a combination of conventional farming systems and hydroponics technologies where soil-less growth media are employed for the cultivation of healthy and high-value crops. The model has satellite community farmer groups situated at various distances within the radius of the Royal Zambezi and the Zambezi Sun Hotels.

These farmer groups who produce recommended vegetables for sale to the hotels are themselves organized in such a manner that harvested produce are brought to a central location from where a lead farmer transports them to a designated marketing joint.

Mr. Stephen Chimuka Mwinga, assisted by his wife Cynthia Ntumbizodwe, is the lead farmer at the Kabuyu community area, near Livingstone. Stephen who previously lived in main town Livingstone doing menial jobs is now self-employed and employs an additional 25 farmhands. Stephen produces all kinds of vegetables as long as the supervisory ASNAPP–Sun International technical team gives him the green light.

Tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, garlic and cabbages are on his annual production calendar. He leads fifteen farmers whose seasonal produce he carts to the marketing joint weekly. Stephen and his wife Cynthia appear satisfied by all standards, and this is visible to any visitor to their five-hectare vegetable farm projecting a distinct greenery to eye prior to entering their farmhouse.

“Every Monday when we send our produce to Sun, we get paid by the ensuing Wednesday”, Cynthia confirms. Stephen says he makes a total sale of 12 million Zambian kwacha monthly (about $3,400), between 4 and 5 million of which passes as production cost leaving him with a minimum of 7 million kwacha a month (about $2,000) as income. By the standards in the local setting, this is by far a tremendous amount of income – a fact which may explain Stephen’s ownership of a farm and a modest vehicle he uses to cart his produce to the market centre.

The Project is part of the ASNAPP High Value Horticulture Initiative in Zambia and parts of Malawi which has, in 2008 alone, purchased a total of 450.7 tons of vegetable from smallholders valued at $612, 490. The projection for 2009 production stands at 515.6 tons at an estimated value of $698, 300 that should accrue to these emerging vegetable farmers.

The ASNAPP hydroponics expert, Dr. Petrus Langenhoven who is in charge of technical support to the initiative underscores the commercial sense in implementing such projects that have so much potential to turn around the economic livelihoods of entire communities.

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