Universiteit Gent Faculteit Landbouwkundige en Toegepaste Biologische Wetenschappen Vakgroep plantaardige productie




НазваниеUniversiteit Gent Faculteit Landbouwkundige en Toegepaste Biologische Wetenschappen Vakgroep plantaardige productie
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Agricultural production



Agriculture in Zambia and Tanzania is characterised by a majority of smallholders with low farm productivity and production. Low crop production is a result from: (1) low labour productivity; (2) lack of appropriate farm management; (3) low levels of agricultural inputs and investment; (4) and soil fertility problems (Limbu, 1999; Van Damme, 1998).


Average plot sizes are usually small as most farmers cannot farm larger areas because they cannot afford the extra labour costs in the absence of sufficient family labour. Indeed, many families have been reduced in their effective numbers due to HIV/AIDS which is estimated to have hit 19.95% of adults in Zambia. Percentages for Tanzania are estimates as there are no adequate reporting procedures: 2% of the population contracted AIDS (between 1993 and 1999) and women, attending antenatal care in clinics of 17 sites, showed infection rates between from 7 to almost 30% (FAO, 2001).


Single-parent and (often) women-headed households with large numbers of young children and/or elderly people are now prevailing in a number of areas, and especially these face chronic labour deficiencies. Young people prefer to work outside the area because there are no formal incentives to keep them in the villages. Hired seasonal labourers work unsupervised and are paid per day for however many days it takes until the job is done making them inefficient (FAO, 2001, Van Damme, 1998).


A key factor in increasing crop production is improving farm management. Crops require timely planting, right planting density, weeding at appropriate stages of growth and if possible proper disease and pest management. To achieve this, farmers need securing access to tractors, draft animals or other implements for land preparation, and general agricultural inputs (e.g. seeds, fertilisers, chemicals,…). Knowledge, training and advice must be provided aimed at recognising crop pests and diseases and acquiring financial management skills. Needs-based small credit schemes preferably starting from and building on savings schemes can assure timely acquisition of inputs (IFAD, 2000b; Van Damme, 1998).


A lack of basic inputs such as fertiliser, certified seeds and adapted (high-yielding) varieties, and pesticides is prevalent in almost all farm households. Lack of (timely) access to inputs is often mentioned by farmers as a major production constraint. Access is limited due to lack of capital (as these inputs are very expensive for farmers), transport and input delivery points. In this context, farmers only seldom buy seed, and most use their own selection. Even so, purchased seed is not necessarily certified seed. Mostly it is just another farmer’s selection. Only a limited number of farmers regularly buy chemical fertiliser and if they do, they usually do not or cannot buy the required amounts to go for optimal nutrient concentration so that yields are lower than what is needed to offset purchasing costs. Crop pests and diseases form a problem for many farmers, both before harvest and in storage. Very often traditional methods are used to prevent or lower excessive losses, but they are not always effective. Only a very limited number of farmers actually buy pesticides (Limbu, 1999; Van Damme, 1998; World Bank, 2000).

Erosion, poor soil preparation on soils often having poor basic structure, the practice of (maize) monoculture and inappropriate fertilisation in the absence of organic fertilisers, contribute to poor soil productivity. In many areas, erosion is a problem. Due to lack of erosion control measures and poor soil structure, soil quality still further declines and land is lost or becomes inaccessible. Long delays between land preparation and planting only serve to aggravate the situation. Soil is low on organic matter as a lot of crop residue is removed by livestock. Some farmers try to address the soil fertility problem by applying (kraal) manure and compost. Maize monoculture further exhausts a soil already severely limited in its nutrient supply. Cassava is a typical end-of-the-line crop, cultivated on poor soils that are beyond salvation. Soil preparation might not be adapted to the specific soil properties. Methods and timing of soil preparations vary greatly: from right before planting to up to two months before planting, with tractor or oxen, with or without disc plough, etc. (Frederickx, 1997; Van Damme, 1998).


Damage by animals (including birds) to crops can have a big negative impact on harvested yields. Although the exact extent of the damage is not know, and very hard to estimate, there are cases of farmers losing their entire harvest due to animal damage. Wild animals and grazing livestock destroy crops because of bad or absent fencing and because the fields remain unsupervised.


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