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Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR)

Targetting small farmers in the implementation of Zambia's poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP)

An assessment of the implementation and effectiveness of the Fertilizer Support Programme

Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR)

May 2005

SARPN acknowledges the Civil Society for Poverty Reduction website as the source of this report:
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Executive Summary

This report presents the study on the implementation and effectiveness of the Fertilizer Support Programme (FSP). The study was specifically designed to generate information and offer analysis of the implementation and recommendations for improving the impact of the programme on food security and poverty reduction among small-scale farmers in rural areas.

Views and perceptions of beneficiaries regarding the effectiveness of the Programme in reducing food insecurity and poverty were solicited and analysed from a total of one hundred and sixteen (116) randomly selected smallholder farmers from three districts (Kalomo, Mumbwa and Mpika) and in six study sites using a survey questionnaire. In addition, qualitative data was generated from 153 farmers using PRA tools which included semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, pairwise ranking and scoring, key informant interviews, and direct observations of physical structures.

The analysis of the findings indicates that the Fertilizer Support Programme has very little impact on the food security and poverty reduction. Income effects cannot adequately address the many household needs that communities in rural areas would like to address. Issues of sustainability and adequacy of the amount of fertilizers farmers receive from the programme were raised. Several factors responsible for reducing the effectiveness of the performance of the programme and the farming activities were identified. These included the following:

  • Inconsistent supply of inputs and sometimes fertilizers arriving earlier than seed;
  • Delays in input supply;
  • Few buyers and poor transport facilities;
  • Inadequate supply of farm inputs;
  • Poor marketing arrangements which includes delays in payment to farmers for farm produce during the marketing season;
  • Lack of or non- use of satellite depots;
  • Poor record keeping of the fertilizer applicants and delivery records;
  • High input prices and low prices for farm produce; and
  • Lack of monitoring and evaluation of the programme.
Key suggestions from the analysis of the findings for improving the implementation and effectiveness of the programme include:

  • The PMU should improve in the mechanism of input supply delivery, by utilizing or establishing satellite depots and delivering seed and fertilizer at the same time;
  • In order to reduce distances from where inputs are collected, government should ensure that satellite depots are established in remote areas;
  • Efforts should be made to make improvements in marketing arrangements for both inputs and farm produce and ensuring that input supply, crop marketing and cash payments for farm produce are synchronised so that inputs are supplied when farmers have cash;
  • The PMU should improve and ensure that an adequate and effective monitoring system is in place;
  • Adequate record keeping must be observed, including at the district, block and camp levels so that farmers who fail to get fertilizer after paying their 50% are refunded in time.
  • Government should ensure early announcement of fertilizer prices to help farmers plan and budget for their farming activities.


  1. Background

    Poverty remains the greatest challenge Zambia is facing. The national average poverty level is estimated at 73% while in rural areas it is at 83% (PRSP, 2002). People suffer immensely from inadequate access to economic and social resources. Vulnerable groups in rural areas, most of whom are women, children and the aged, depend on farming as the main source of livelihood. Limited access to improved seed, fertilizers, agricultural credit, farm produce markets and extension services has generated major concerns among government policy makers, development partners, international and local Non Governmental Organisations. Given that the highest rates of poverty are in the rural areas and agriculture is an important source of livelihood and income for most rural communities, support to agricultural smallholders has been identified as a priority by the Zambian government to reduce poverty and enhance household food security.

    Zambia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) and its various development partners identified and placed agricultural sector high on the agenda as the potential engine for economic growth required to reduce poverty (PRSP, 2002/2004; World Bank, 2002a; 2004b). The failure of the agricultural sector to provide for livelihoods for the majority of people in rural areas is considered a major factor contributing to rural poverty. A broad range of policy reforms in the agricultural sector were introduced to stimulate growth and improve the performance of the agricultural sector in order to reduce poverty and enhance household food security in the country. These reforms included land reforms, fertilizer and crop market reforms that allow the private sector to participate in input supply and crop marketing, while reducing government participation.

    However, there was a recognition of failure on the part of the private sector to provide adequate services leading to the government introducing the Fertilizer Support Programme (FSP) to service smallholder farmers so that they improve farm level productivity, enhance food security and ultimately reduce poverty. The Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR), a network of civil society organisations from different parts of the country that participated in the formulation of the 2002-2004 PRSP, have been keenly monitoring the implementation of the PRSP and its impact on the poverty situation. To effectively contribute to poverty reduction debate in the agricultural sector, CSPR commissioned a study to assess the operations and effectiveness of the FSP in meeting its objectives under the PRSP so as to inform policy decisions, especially during the 2005 PRSP review and development of the 2006 – 2010 National Development Plan.

  2. Objectives of the Fertilizer Support Programme

    In recognizing that a large proportion of small-scale farmers in rural areas depend on agriculture for sustenance, the “Fertilizer Support Programme and the Food Security Pack” were established under the PRSP as one of the Five Programmes created to increase food production and enhance food security among small-scale farmers by supplying fertilizers and seed at a 50% subsidy (PRSP, 2002/04). The general objectives of the Fertilizer Support Programme and the Food Security Pack were to promote the use of low input and conservation farming technologies among selected target small-scale farmers who meet the criteria; distribute the required enterprise inputs in time; and provide extension messages to support the enterprises.

    Specific objectives of the programme (2002/03 and 2003/2004 growing season manual) include the following:

    1. Increase private sector participation in supply of agricultural inputs to smallholder farmers and thereby reduce government involvement;

    2. Ensure timely, effective and adequate supply of agricultural inputs in the country;

    3. Improve access of smallholder farmers to agricultural inputs;

    4. Ensure comprehensiveness and transparency in the distribution of inputs and thereby breaking monopolies;

    5. Serve as a risk-sharing mechanism for smallholder farmers to cover part of the costs for improving agricultural productivity;

    6. Expand markets for private sector input suppliers and increase their involvement in distribution of agricultural inputs in rural areas, thereby reducing direct role of government; and

    7. Facilitate the process of farmer organization, dissemination of knowledge and creation of other rural institutions that will contribute to the development of the agricultural sector.

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