Agricultural cooperatives in Zambia accelerate adoption of improved maize varieties

Julius Manda, Arega D. Alene, IITA-Malawi. Munyaradzi Mutenje, Adane H. Tufa, Peter Setimela, Victor Manyong, IITA-Tanzania.

Maise is a major staple crop in Zambia. Photo by IITA.

While maize is the number one staple crop in Zambia (for 70% of the population with 13% contribution to GDP), the average yields of around 2 t/ ha, are very low compared to other countries in the region. Therefore, increasing its productivity is an important policy objective. Research has shown that the adoption of improved maize varieties is critical for increasing yields. Therefore, understanding the speed with which improved maize varieties are adopted and identifying the factors that enable faster adoption can greatly contribute to this policy objective.

Agricultural cooperatives in Zambia are one of the conduits through which the adoption of improved technologies such as improved maize and inorganic fertilizers can be accelerated or increased. The Zambian government is implementing the farmer input support program (FISP) that is supplying farmers with inputs such as improved seed and fertilizers at a subsidized price. To benefit from this program, farmers are expected to apply through their cooperatives, farmers’ organizations, and associations. In addition to providing subsidized inputs, the program is encouraging farmers to adopt sustainable intensification practices such as crop rotation.

A study was conducted to assess the speed and determinants of adoption of improved maize varieties in Zambia using survey data collected in 2012 and 2015 in the eastern province of Zambia by IITA and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). The results from a duration analysis showed that the average time (adoption gap) it takes between the year a variety of improved maize is released and the year the farmer plants the variety was 9 years. Figure 1 shows that the waiting time or adoption gap was shorter for cooperative members (steeper slope) than that of non-members. This implies that cooperative members are more likely to adopt improved maize varieties faster than non-members.

Women beneficiaries of SARD-SC.Photo by IITA.

The results further showed that cooperative membership, age of the household head, livestock ownership, and the number of contacts with agricultural extension officers are important determinants of the speed of adoption. A 1% increase in cooperative membership increases the speed of adoption of improved maize by 3 months. Similarly, livestock ownership increases the speed of adoption by 0.06 years. Livestock ownership plays an important role with regard to the provision of draught power that can be used for cultivation as well as transporting farm produce to the market. Contacts with extension agents indicated exposure to information on improved maize varieties, which in turn shortened the time between variety release and actual planting of the variety.

Results also showed that participation in cooperatives increased the probability of adoption of improved maize varieties, inorganic fertilizer application, and crop rotation in 2015. The probability of adoption of improved maize varieties increased by about 18 percentage points
due to cooperative membership while that of inorganic fertilizer application increased by about 23 percentage points in 2015. The likelihood of adoption of crop rotation increased by nearly 19 percentage points with cooperative membership. The findings showed the same patterns for 2012. For 2012 and 2015 combined, cooperative membership increased the adoption of inorganic fertilizer application by 11 percentage points and crop rotation by 24 percentage points. Overall, the results point to the need for policies promoting farmer organizations such as cooperatives coupled with effective extension services for faster and greater adoption of improved technologies.

Farmers using mobile phones to get information. Photo by IITA

Posted on October 30, 2018 in Ensuring Impact and Delivery

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