Catholic Relief Services works to empower rural communities to engage in market equability, profitability and sustainability. Their food security and livelihoods programs aim to meet everyday nutritional requirements and help increase food security. The focus is on vulnerable communities in six districts in the Southern and Western provinces of Zambia.
Agriculture is one of the main sources of income in Zambia with about 70% of the Zambian population dependent on farming. However 25% of people in rural areas own less than 1 hectare of land and many families in these areas are unable to meet their nutritional needs.
The Catholic Relief Services work to empower rural communities to engage in market equability, profitability and sustainability so that rural families can earn a basic income, including cash for food and other necessities.
Support includes the following:
- Helping farmers organise themselves
- Building farmers' skills and capabilities in the key agricultural areas
- Connecting farmers with the necessary business development services
- Linking farmers with the latest agricultural research
CRS Agro Enterprise Programmes in Zambia
CRS works with 1,200 small holder farm families in Western Province, building farmer groups skills in organisational and financial management, experimentation and innovation, market engagement and sustainable production.
Micro finance services
CRS has a savings-led micro finance service where farmers can access credit for investments in improved production and marketing technologies. CRS Zambia currently supports 7, 700 savings group members of which 80% are women. CRS is also pioneering commercially sustainable models to train and certify local field agents as Private Service Providers (PSPs)
In Western Province, CRS is expanding replicable, mobile information platforms that are low cost, scalable and affordable to farmers and farmer groups so that they can share current market information.
C-FAARM (2007 -2011) project
The C-FAARM (2007 -2011) Project was a five year $36.5 million CRS programme in Southern and Western provinces. This project, funded by USAID, has enabled about 15,000 smallholder farm families to produce higher yields and diversify production.
Promotion for Food Security Programme
Funded by the Scottish Government, this programme enabled 92% of participating farming households with surplus produce to access markets. 94% of these farmers had diversified their crop production by the end of the project.
CRS integrates farming with improved nutrition through the promotion of keyhole and homestead gardening as well as techniques for processing, preparation and preservation of produce to increase food availability and dietary diversity throughout the year.
The CRS approach to agro enterprise
Building farmers' skills
Joint research with the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) shows that farmers require five complimentary sets of skills in order to engage effectively and sustainably with markets:
- Group organisation and management
- Financial management
- Managing the natural resources for sustainable production
- Harnessing innovation
- Marketing and business
Linking farmers to markets
CRS works with farmers to build their ability to identify viable market opportunities and increase their efficiency, volume and product quality. This enables them to engage more effectively with specific actors in the value chain. CRS also deals with value chain actors themselves, to help them reach deeper into communities and engage with more farmers including vulnerable but viable farmers.
Ensuring participation of women and vulnerable farmers in value chains
CRS' savings-led micro finance programs typically attracts female participation rates of 70 – 90%, engaging them in enterprise activities and commercial agriculture. Field facilitators from CRS work with farm families so that they make joint decisions about what to produce and sell, thereby helping women to have a say in how their income is earned and spent.
Integrated research and learning
CRS is a co-founding member of the Agro-Enterprise Learning Alliance for Eastern and Southern Africa. It regularly cooperates with local and international research institutions in Zambia such as:
- Golden Valley Agricultural Trust in Zambia
- USAID-supported Food Security Research Program (FSRP)
- International Crops Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)
Market based model
CRS' private sector provider model enables local entrepreneurs to expand fee-based services in rural areas to savings and producer groups. Qualified and agro-enterprise micro finance field agents earn income as they create and support groups. The groups in turn receive support from a quality assured service provider independent of CRS' or donor support.
Farmbook is an innovative mobile solution developed by CRS that offers agriculture extension agents and service providers in NGO, Government and private sectors the tools required to provide farmers with customised advice on farm business. Farmbook helps farmers' groups to create business plans and calculate profits and also allows project managers to monitor groups and their average profitability in real time.
CRS has published the following resources for agro-enterprise professionals:
- Getting to Market
- Homestead Gardening
- Preparing Farmer Groups
CRS approach to agro-enterprising
- Builds farmers skills
- Participation of women
- Participation of vulnerable farmers
- Integrates research and learning
- Is market-based
- Links farmers to markets