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GDN Working Paper Series - The Role of Urban Agriculture in Addressing Household Poverty and Food Security: The Case of Zambia
September 2009
Godfrey Hampwaye, Etienne Nel, Lutangu Ingombe

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges Global Development Network (GDN) as the source of this document: http://www.gdnet.org/


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Since the attainment of political independence in 1964, copper mining has been the mainstay of the national economy (Kaunga, 1982; Zambia, 2009). Efforts to diversify the Zambian economy by focusing on agriculture, tourism and manufacturing in the past have not been successful. Hence problems associated with the prices of copper on the world market have had direct impacts on Zambia’s economy, as is presently the case. Although the emphasis has been placed on the promotion of non-traditional exports and positive effects have been recorded since the late 1980s, the impact has not been significant. Poverty levels have escalated in the country largely as a result of the negative impacts of the Structural Adjustment Programmes. Between 1998 and 2004, the incidence of poverty has fluctuated between 73% and 68% (Zambia, 2006). Regionally, the incidence of poverty declined from 83% to 78% in rural areas while in urban areas it declined from 56% to 53% (Zambia, 2006). These statistics indicate that the rate of reduction in the incidence of poverty was higher in rural areas than in urban areas. A series of interventions have been implemented by the central government in order to reduce poverty, inter alia, promotion of non-traditional exports (Zambia, 2006); Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) (Zambia, 2002); Zambia Social Investment Fund (ZAMSIF) and Social Recovery Project (SRP) (ZAMSIF, 2001), and more recently the national government and the United Nations agreed to implement another initiative called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (Zambia/United Nations, 2005). The implementation of the PRSP and others in the past has been adversely affected by several constraints, especially inadequate and late release of funds by the central government. Due to the poor performance of the economy, with the resultant increasing poverty and unemployment levels, urban dwellers have become innovative by engaging in a variety of informal survival strategies including urban farming. This activity is critical in reducing hunger which forms part of the MDG 1.

UNDP (1996) has recognized urban agriculture as one of the activities with the potential to bring about positive socio-economic development in urban areas of the developing world. Urban agriculture is considered as one of the key community responses to economic restructuring in Zambia (Hampwaye et al, 2007; Hampwaye, 2008). According to available data on urban agriculture in Zambia, the practice seems to play a critical role in improving food security for vulnerable urban dwellers, particularly the elderly, women and children (Rakodi, 1985; Jaeger and Huckabay, 1986; Sanyal, 1987; Shah, 1997; Hampwaye, 2008). The central government has acknowledged the fact that agriculture is a central pillar in poverty reduction in Zambia, albeit the focus hitherto has been on rural areas (Zambia, 2009). In addition, urban agriculture is seen to provide income, employment opportunities for the unemployed, and a cheap source of food and improved nutrition to the poor urban households (Shah, 1997; Muchimba, 1999; Steckely and Muleba, 2003; Lubinda, 2004; Lupyani, 2004). The practice has also been found to be a profitable business in certain instances in Zambia (Lubinda, 2000; Simatele and Binns, 2008).

A survey questionnaire was administered to a total of 400 households in three cities and one town in Zambia, broken down in proportion to their population sizes as follows: 154 in the City of Lusaka, 100 in the City of Ndola, 100 in the City of Kitwe and 50 in Kabwe town (see Figure 1). All four urban centres have experienced economic downturns in the recent past to varying degrees.

The mining industry which has been the economic backbone of the Copperbelt Province, where Ndola and Kitwe are located, has faced several challenges. This led to retrenchment of mineworkers, especially after the 1990s. These challenges were not restricted to the mining industry but included industries that provided support services to the mining sector.

The local economy in Kabwe slumped following the closure of the lead and zinc mine which was the major employer of the town, thereby landing thousands of unemployed in the streets in the 1990s. This situation was exacerbated by the closure of yet another significant employer in Kabwe, the Zambia-China Mulungushi Textile Factory. This joint-venture ceased to operate in the 2000s as it could not compete with Asian imports (Carmody, 2008). Its closure had negative multiplier effects through the local economy, as not only were thousands of jobs lost directly, but thousands of local cotton growers were also affected (Carmody, 2008).

The City of Lusaka, because of its relatively stronger local economy when compared to that of other urban centres of a similar size, faces a high rate of migration from rural areas and from other towns as well, which has resulted in increasing unemployment rates The selection of the farmers was done purposively. However, in order to ensure representative spatial coverage of each city/town, interviews were conducted in all four clusters of each urban city and town. The farmers were categorized as crop producers and livestock keepers. The majority of those who were interviewed belong to the former category. The crop producers were further divided into backyard farmers (on-plot) and those who grow crops in communal areas (off-plot). The disaggregation of farmers was necessary in order to capture a variety of issues that affect all urban farmers. The survey questionnaire solicited responses from farmers in the areas of basic farming profile, crop production and land ownership, animal husbandry, household expenditure patterns, food security, as well as general and institutional issues relating to urban agriculture.

The aim of this paper is to examine the role of urban agriculture in poverty reduction in Zambia. It is argued in this paper that urban agriculture can be an important tool in reducing urban poverty and in helping achieve Millennium Development Goal (MDG) One, which seeks to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015. It is the intention of this paper to show that if urban agriculture is supported by both local and central governments, it can play a significant role in terms of achieving this important development al goal.

In terms of the structure, the paper is divided into two broad categories: the basic profile of the farmers and agricultural production. The former focuses on the socio-economic data and the latter on issues related to actual production of food and animals, as well as the contribution of this activity to household income, food security and provision of a cheap source of food.

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