A multilateral partnership in Zambia has profiled and digitally registered 35,000 farmers for ICT-enabled extension and advisory services, including a system which sends agronomic information and weather updates to their mobile phones. Mrs. Mweene, a farmer from Kapiri Mposhi District in Zambia, explains that “the messages remind farmers how to spray their animals, how to manage the fields and how to store harvested grains.”
Part of CTA’s ‘Scaling-up climate-smart agricultural (CSA) solutions for cereals and livestock farmers in Southern Africa’ project, this initiative aims to provide farmers with greater access to CSA solutions to increase the food security, nutrition and income of Zambian smallholders.
Many Zambian farmers have little access to affordable and reliable CSA technologies and practices. To help address this, CTA is facilitating the multi-stakeholder Zambian partnership to promote ICT-enabled climate information services, as well as weather-based insurance schemes and the diversification of options for livestock farmers, such as the use of climate-smart feed which requires less water to grow but provide the same nutritional value to livestock. The partnership also informs farmers of drought-tolerant germplasms, including maize seeds, which can fully mature in shorter rainy seasons. The aim is to reach 80,000 farmers within 3 years.
The consortium is comprised of the Zambia Open University, Musika Development Initiatives (Musika) and the Professional Insurance Company of Zambia (PICZ), and is working in collaboration with officers and field extension workers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL). Each partner is responsible for different areas of development. For example, PICZ is developing a digital platform for farmer registration. Musika is responsible for developing a training manual and leading the training of field workers and farmers, while the Zambia Open University, apart from coordinating and leading the project’s implementation, also manages research into the climate-smart feed options for livestock farmers.
There are multiple benefits of this initiative for each partner; PICZ acquires new clients in the form of smallholder farmers, Musika makes doing business with smallholder farmers more attractive to their corporate clients, and the Zambia Open University benefits because their students gain experience in project management and research.
The public sector also plays a key role in the partnership. Through their National Agricultural Information Services, MAL provides all of the technical agronomic data that the consortium disseminates to farmers via mobile phone services. The use of government-approved technical information ensures that farmers are not sent conflicting extension service messages. Furthermore, in early 2017, the Zambian government announced a policy that made the purchase of weather index insurance compulsory for all farmers benefiting from the country’s Farmer Input Support Programme, in which the government distributes subsidised agricultural inputs to small-scale producers. This meant that approximately 1.2 million farmers had to subscribe to weather index insurance.