Good Nature Agro (GNA) aims to introduce solar-powered borehole and irrigation systems to allow farmers to take on new crops and grow their earnings
Zambia has 3,800,000 hectares of arable land. This presents an immense opportunity for agricultural enterprises. However, land is usually expanded by clearing forests, which is something that GNA intends to limit through sustainable intensification – making the land that is already under cultivation more efficient. GNA plans to introduce solar-powered borehole and irrigation systems that will shield farmers from erratic rainfall and increase the number of farming seasons from one to two (and sometimes three) per year. This, combined with the higher-value horticultural markets that can be unlocked during dry season production, has the potential to dramatically increase grower incomes.
GNA is a for profit social enterprise that began operations in 2014. The majority of farmers in the parts of Zambia in which GNA operates are typically subsistence farmers that focus on growing maize. GNA’s aim is to improve the livelihoods of these farmers by enabling them to produce high-value legume seeds, initially produced at Good Nature Foundation Farm and then multiplied through smallholder seed farmers (of which 40% are women) contracted to GNA. Farmers can then grow higher value crops such as soya bean and groundnuts, which GNA purchases directly at centralised buying points within the farming communities, reducing their transport costs and adding to their bottom line.
However, in most areas of Zambia, it doesn’t rain between the period of mid-May and mid-October. This means that the land cultivated by each of the 26,000 farmers GNA engages is idle for six months out of the year. With support from PREO, GNA plans to create a complementary irrigation-based contract farming programme that can enable farmers to earn more than double their annual income without expanding their hectarage. Irrigation can create an additional season (or seasons) that can be used either for legumes or diversification into high-value horticultural crops such as onion.
GNA would provide direction on which crops to grow and how to maximize yield and maintain soil health, and would continue to provide the farmers with off-take market for select crops. GNA could also utilise its ‘grower rating’ system to help improve farmers’ productivity. A grower rating is a score given to each farmer based on data such as quality of crop and adoption of best practices. This score then determines the farmer’s credit limit for the next season. There is potential to translate these grower ratings into financing opportunities on CapEx equipment that unlocks the productive capacity of the six-month dry period.
For more information on Good Nature Agro, visit: goodnatureagro.com