Good Nature Agro receive PREO funding to transform the livelihoods of small-scale Zambian farmers with irrigation-based contract farming

Good Nature Agro (GNA) has been granted €160,000 by PREO (Powering Renewable Energy Opportunities) to improve the productivity and profitability of small farms in Zambia through the introduction of an irrigation-based contract farming system. Solar-powered irrigation will boost the incomes of subsistence farmers by enabling them to multiply their harvests by growing during the dry season, GNA will further support farmers in diversifying their crop portfolio to incorporate crops that fetch a higher price at market. Using their cultivated land more efficiently, the programme will also help in preserving forest land from being razed by farmers for agricultural use.

With approximately 3.8 million hectares of arable land, Zambia has the potential to become an agricultural powerhouse, yet small local producers are typically held back by lack of machinery, agronomic knowledge and access to market. The majority of subsistence farmers across the regions in which GNA operates produce low-value maize. Their farmland typically remains idle during the dry season between May and October in the absence of proper irrigation. This standstill in productivity for six months of the year has a detrimental impact on the earning capacity of farmers, significantly undermining food security in Zambia.

To improve the livelihoods of small-scale Zambian farmers, GNA will support their diversification into high-value legumes such as soya beans and ground nuts, using quality seeds initially grown at the Good Nature Foundation Farm and then supplied by contracted smallholder seed producers. Some farmers will also be supported in moving into high-value horticultural crops such as onions. The funding will further support field officers in providing advisory to farmers on which crops are most suitable for their land and how to maximize yields with suitable inputs whilst maintaining soil health.

GNA takes a ’full farm’ approach to engaging and supporting each farmer. Funding from PREO will enable GNA to give farmers hands-on training at successful horticultural farms in the initial phase of the project. The farmers will then be organised into groups at seven sites where they will have access to water from freshly drilled boreholes as well as equipment including solar submersible pumps, water storage tanks and irrigation kits. Irrigation will allow farmers to make the most of their existing farmland by adding one or more growing seasons to their expanded range of crops, increasing their crop and profit margins. GNA will subsequently purchase the farmer’s produce directly at centralised buying points within the farming communities, reducing their transport costs and adding to their bottom line. It’s projected that this contract farming system will enable farmers to earn more than double their current annual income.

To ensure the growth and resilience of farmer livelihoods, GNA will help modernise their operations through training including financial literacy, digitization of records and making digital payments. It will also explore the deployment of a ‘grower rating’ system to help improve farm 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 incentivise these grower ratings into financing opportunities for equipment that further unlocks the productive capacity of the six month dry season.

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