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Rationale: Efficient agricultural markets and trade can encourage agriculture-led economic growth and food security in Sub Saharan Africa. However, efforts to move toward a market-oriented economy are hampered by ineffective policies, weak institutions, and inadequate infrastructure in most SSA countries including Zambia.  Zambia has the potential to become the bread basket of southern Africa. This is because of the country’s abundant sub-surface water, large tracts of cultivable farmland and proximity to large neighboring deficit food markets (Chapoto et al.,2010). Agricultural markets remain challenged by numerous factors such as high transaction costs, poor state of infrastructure leading to thin or missing markets, inadequate access to finance, high risks among others. As a result, most farmers are net buyers of food and do not adequately participate in markets (Mason, Jayne & Meyer, 2012).  Nevertheless, the rapid population increase, the rapid rate of urbanization and the rising incomes present massive opportunities for Zambia’s agriculture in terms of rising demand for food and changing food consumption patterns. With these changing dynamics, the prospects for smallholder farmers to earn better incomes from increased participation in domestic markets and regional trade are high.    

Several opportunities exist in other sectors other than maize such as oilseeds -soya beans, sunflower and groundnuts, cash crops- cotton, horticultural products and livestock.  However, maize-centric policies have led most farmers to allocate more land to maize. Large investments by private companies such as Cargill, NWK, Mt. Meru, and Zambeef offer opportunities for development of more commodity sectors under alternative co-ordination mechanisms such as contract farming (Chamberlin, 2014). These opportunities remain underexplored.

Research Priorities:  IAPRI under this thematic area will conduct studies aimed at providing the policy makers empirical evidence to address the persistence challenges in agricultural marketing and trade for Zambia’s four key commodity value chains:  maize, horticulture, cotton and livestock.

Rationale:  Agriculture provides the main support for Zambia’s rural economy, and because of this, growth in the agricultural sector is the clearest avenue through which poverty reduction can be achieved in Zambia. Sixty seven percent of the Zambian population depend on agriculture, primarily through smallholder production for their livelihoods and employment (CSO, 2012). Zambia recognizes agriculture as one of the key priority sectors in achieving sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction as outlined in Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP) and the National Agricultural Investment Plan (NAIP).   Also, agricultural-led development has been identified by African Heads of State and Governments as key to achieving food security and rural development in sub-Saharan Africa. Through the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) framework, Zambia, like many other members of the union, has targeted to achieve a minimum of 6% annual agricultural growth by making available 10% of the national budget towards the sector. Yet, despite this widespread recognition of the strong connection between agricultural development and poverty reduction, there is continuing under-provision of public goods investments. 

The distribution of the agricultural budget in the recent past has not placed enough emphasis on broad-based public investments. Most of the funds allocated to the sector over the years have been spent on fertilizer subsidies through the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) and maize price stabilization through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), which together have accounted for between 50-70% of the total budget over the last seven years. Despite high volumes of spending on input subsidies and maize price support, the returns on these investments have been low; agriculture’s contribution to the economy has not been growing and rural poverty levels remain high.  Evidence shows that agricultural growth reduces poverty by twice the rate of growth in nonagricultural sectors (World Bank 2007; Diao et al. 2007) but to achieve this the right public investments need to be made. Zambia’s primary policy objective of achieving accelerated growth and competitiveness in the agricultural sector cannot be achieved unless adequate public resources are committed towards catalyzing the desired growth.   

Research Priorities:  IAPRI’s Research under this thematic area intends to provide an understanding of factors driving the current government expenditure in the agricultural sector and their effective use.  This research is intended to influence policies to achieve sustainable pro-poor poverty reduction in Zambia.  Research under this theme falls under four (4) subthemes: a) Agricultural public expenditure analysis; b) Agricultural budget process and mapping; c) Returns to public investments; and d) Public Private Partners (PPPs).

Rationale:  Nearly 6 million rural people in the country live on just $1.25 a day, 75.5% of the total rural population.  Based on the last census results in 2010, 64.4 % of the poor in the country live in the rural areas and the majority of them depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.  Despite the government of Zambia’s commitment to address the stubbornly high rural poverty through the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) and output price support via the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) rural poverty rates have remained very high.  The agricultural sector is a vehicle through which development and poverty reduction can occur in the country. Evidence shows that agricultural growth reduces poverty by twice the rate of growth in nonagricultural sectors (World Bank 2007; Diao et al. 2007), but in Zambia, this growth is curtailed by the attraction to past ineffective agricultural policies and programs. Government of Zambia’s involvement into the agricultural sector has been failing take into account the changing macro and micro environment resulting from the rapid population growth, urbanization and changing consumption patterns amidst the threat of climate change and natural resource scarcity.  Experts have emphasized the crucial importance of increasing agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa in achieving sustainable economic transformation, food security and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (Rosegrant et al. 2006, Timmer, 1998; World Bank 2007). But productivity in Zambia like most other countries in sub Saharan Africa remains too low to stimulate this transformation.

Research Priorities:  Research under this theme falls under two sub themes: Agricultural inputs, productivity, and poverty and Farm structure, land access and institutions.  The first subtheme is divided into four sub themes: a) agricultural technology, land and labour productivity; b) transformation in the farm and nonfarm rural economy; c) research and development; d) mechanization and agricultural productivity and; e) public Investment, market and rural development strategy.  Whilst the second sub theme on farm structure, land access and institutions is divided into four further subthemes : a) farm size, agricultural productivity and welfare; b) land institutions and access; c)  farm blocks and resettlement and d) agricultural growth strategy-Large-scale versus small-scale farmers.   

Rationale: Malnutrition remains one of the world’s greatest human and economic development challenges in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in every four children under the age of five suffers from stunting, or chronic malnutrition, which is caused by poor diets, inappropriate care and feeding practices in early life, and high rates of infectious diseases (WHO, 2002). Zambia is not an exception. The country has one of the highest rates of child stunting in the world which has become a leading cause of disease and child mortality. Despite uninterrupted agricultural growth averaging 6% with significant increases in production of maize, the staple crop, under nutrition has remained high. Nearly 50% of children below the age of five have stunted growth (LCMS, 2010). According to WHO’s severity index, Zambia is rated “critical” or “very high” for stunting, “medium” for wasting and “serious” or “high” for underweight. Additionally, an estimated 10% to 13% of children born in Zambia have low birthrate which is linked to poor maternal nutrition before and during pregnancy (WHO, 2002). The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) deadline is in less than a year. Based on the 2010 nutritional status, it is unlikely that Zambia will achieve the MDG of halving child malnutrition. 


Several studies on the impact of agricultural policy exist for Zambia but they typical focus on the impact of productivity, incomes and/or poverty (e.g Mason et al 2013, Hichaambwa and Jayne, 2014) while very few on nutritional outcomes (e.g. Mofya-Mukuka and Kulhgatz, 2014).  Given the success stories of Brazil and China, the goal of eliminating hunger and malnutrition is attainable. However, to attain this goal there is need for nutrition-sensitive agricultural policies, the right investment and the right supporting legal framework. So far, the Zambia nutrition policy developed in 2009 does not provide clear direction on how agriculture interventions can attain this goal.


The link between the agricultural growth and the nutritional status especially in children remains a paradox for the country. To understand this link, in-depth research which examines agricultural productivity in the context of food and nutrition security is necessary. The research will require a holistic approach on that analysis of agricultural growth, nutrient supply and consumption covers the four pillars of food security, namely food availability, food access, food stability and food utilization and focusing on the market, household and individual levels.


In the past IAPRI has focused its research mainly on agriculture, food security and poverty reduction without dealing with nutrition issues. This new thematic area has been added in order to contribute to improved nutrition in Zambia through provision of evidence-based research findings which are critical for policy formulation. In particular, IAPRI’s research under this thematic area will aim to: 1) deliver novel conclusions and formulate policy options on food supply, access and utilization in Zambia and nutritional effects; b) Identify barriers to food and nutrition security among rural smallholder households and; c) measure and monitor nutritional outcomes 



Research Priorities:  Research under this thematic area will fall into four sub themes, a) Agricultural production and nutrition, b) Food access, markets and nutrition, c) Food access, markets and nutrition, and d) Agriculture risks on nutrition and health.

Rationale: As world population continues to increase, estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050, coupled with increasing income among people in developing countries, increase in demand for food, energy and other natural resources, such as water, and land is inevitable. But resources needed for sustainable food security, such as fresh water, productive soils, key nutrients, and genetic diversity, are becoming increasingly scarce (Bereuter and Glickman, 2014) and climate change is making the choices more complicated.   There is scientific consensus that climate change — i.e a rise in mean global temperature and increasing frequency of extreme weather conditions — will have varying impacts between temperate and tropical regions by the year 2050.  With high confidence, IPCC (2007, 2013) projected that climate variability and change would severely compromise agricultural production, food availability, access and utilization (Wheeler and von Braun, 2014, Rosenzweig and Parry, 1994). Therefore, in the absence of effective strategies in response to climate change, global food insecurity, poverty, hunger, and malnutrition levels are likely to worsen.

Although initially climate change might present an opportunity for a few farmers, in the long run, all farmers will experience declining crop and livestock productivity and it will become increasingly more challenging to manage the additional variability in production and markets (Lobell and Gourdji, 2012). A recent study based on climate modelling by Nelson et al 2013 concluded that global crop yields are likely to decline by an average of 17 percent while food prices will increase by 20% by the year 2050.  However, there will be some significant differences by crop, region, and crop and climate models (Thornton et al., 2009; Lobell et al., 2011).  With regards to Zambia, Wineman and Crawford (2014) estimates 7.5% and 11.4% maize yield declines resulting from climate change scenarios for 2050 relative to 2000 from the CCSM and Hadley models, respectively. Sub-Saharan Africa remains more vulnerable and less prepared to deal with shocks related to climate change because of the continent’s low adaptive capacity, high rates of poverty, poor infrastructure and the high dependence on rain-fed agriculture (Tschakert 2007, Brooks et. al 2005).

Research Priorities: IAPRI’s climate change and natural resources thematic area aims to carry out research that will feed into the development of evidence-based agriculture, environment, and natural resource related policies in Zambia. Olson et al. (2014) predict that Zambia is most likely to experience continued rising temperatures, but with a very minimal decline in precipitation. The rising temperature will lead to increased evaporation, and thus even if precipitation will remain the same, moisture stress, as a result of rising temperatures, will present a challenge for agricultural development in Zambia. Furthermore, there is evidence both from meteorological records and farmers’ observation and experiences of highly variable and declining rainfall in Zambia (Mulenga and Wineman 2014). It is therefore important that the country’s policies and strategies are designed to deal with these predicted changes.

Research priorities under this area will focus on understanding climate change/variability impacts, adaptation, and mitigation with a strong emphasis on smallholder agriculture. While, the natural resources component will address issues pertaining to use of clean energy at household level, impact of charcoal production and consumption on the forest resource, and sustainable land and forestry management.  In addition, research will be done to understand the interaction between rural livelihoods and natural resources.