Rome, 21 June 2023 – If conservation agriculture and other sustainable agricultural practices are tailored to local agro-ecological conditions, they can enhance net benefits and build resilience of production systems. This was among the main findings of the recent evaluation report of the Smallholder Productivity Promotion Programme (S3P), in Zambia. Published by the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE), the report found that the use of a ‘one size fits all’ approach in the promotion of conservation agriculture practices became one of the major shortcomings of the S3P, as the programme did not consider the different farm typologies, farmers’ production orientation, and availability of farm equipment.
The overall goal of the S3P programme was to sustainably increase income levels, as well as food and nutrition security of rural households. The development objective was to increase production, productivity and sales of smallholder farmers in the target communities. The programme was implemented for over 8 years, between 2011 and 2019. The project performance evaluation (PPE) covered all components of the S3P, during the entire implementation period of the programme.
In terms of infrastructure, the PPE found that the 28-kilometre Luwingu-to-Chimpili road was the most successful activity constructed by S3P, resulting in improved access to markets for smallholder producers and traders. The permanent weirs show good construction quality and utilization, particularly during the offseason.
Improved access to extension advisory services was another success that the Programme achieved. This success, however, was short lived as the private service providers and Ministry of Agriculture have not sustained the same intensity of extension service provision as during programme implementation. While this confirms that outreach was driven by programme financing, it also highlights that the familiar challenge of “projectization’’ of service delivery resulting in limited sustainability.
Another issue of concern is that, during the S3P lifespan, the promotion of conservation agriculture was not enhanced by the incorporation of labour-saving technologies, as support to adapted tools, equipment, transport and on-farm post-harvest technologies was inadequate. Furthermore, other PPE findings that require attention include the fact that the capacity development support of farmer organizations and their federations was not optimal and required further support, particularly on marketing. In addition, market access has remained a significant and ongoing concern given the supply side focus of the programme and the gaps in functional synergies at the operational level with other IFAD supported programme to complement with marketing, value chain development and access to finance.
Seeking to build on the lessons emerging from the S3P, the PPE report recommends that future IFAD-funded operations should sufficiently integrate market orientation in production and productivity enhancement programmes to ensure sustainable smallholder production and productivity growth. IFAD and the Government should also give greater attention to localized, contextually specific application of different sustainable agricultural practices through the adoption of a systems agronomy approach. In terms of sustainability, IFAD and the Government should carefully consider the sequencing, timeliness and effective implementation of interventions in integrated programmes to facilitate the achievement of greater and more lasting results.
Zambia’s economic situation has improved in the last decade, driven by economic and public sector reforms initiated in the 1990s and propelled by rising copper prices. Economic growth was around 6 per cent annually between 2005 and 2010. However, poverty levels have remained high, especially in rural areas. More than 60 per cent of Zambians live below the poverty line. To foster more broad-based and inclusive economic growth, Zambia has sought ways to diversify its economy. It has targeted agriculture as a priority sector for poverty reduction and food security, since two thirds of the population lives in rural areas and relies on agriculture for income.
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- To access the Smallholder Productivity Promotion Programme (S3P) Project Performance Evaluation report, please click here.