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Farm Radio Weekly is a news and information service for rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is published by Farm Radio International.

Farm Radio Weekly

Farmers’ co-operatives help Zambian farmers survive and thrive

Agriculture in Zambia, and in Africa as a whole, faces several challenges. The climate is becoming harsher, destabilizing crop and livestock production. Farm inputs like seeds and fertilizers are often unaffordable for small-scale farmers. And yields are limited because of small-scale farmers’ dependence on rainfed agriculture. Even when the rains are good, farmers often have insufficient food or income during the months when farm labour is most needed.

In this script, we discuss the practice of forming farmers’ co-operatives, and how these groups can help address these challenges. In the Central Province of Zambia, Mumbwa District, farmers in the Nakabu Co-operative produce maize seed and pigs. They sell these products to sustain both their families and their agricultural businesses. The presenter speaks to a member who has seen the benefits of forming a farmers’ co-operative. The dialogue calls on farmers to unite and form co-operatives to address the challenges they face.

Notes to broadcaster

Agriculture in Zambia, and in Africa as a whole, faces several challenges. The climate is becoming harsher, destabilizing crop and livestock production. Farm inputs like seeds and fertilizers are often unaffordable for small-scale farmers. And yields are limited because of small-scale farmers’ dependence on rainfed agriculture. Even when the rains are good, farmers often have insufficient food or income during the months when farm labour is most needed.

In this script, we discuss the practice of forming farmers’ co-operatives, and how these groups can help address these challenges. In the Central Province of Zambia, Mumbwa District, farmers in the Nakabu Co-operative produce maize seed and pigs. They sell these products to sustain both their families and their agricultural businesses. The presenter speaks to a member who has seen the benefits of forming a farmers’ co-operative. The dialogue calls on farmers to unite and form co-operatives to address the challenges they face.

Farmers’ co-operatives are an effective way to lessen the negative impacts of crises. They provide the following benefits:

  1. Farmers’ requests to government and other stakeholders are met quickly when they speak with one big voice.
  2. Farmers’ co-operatives help keep farmers and their homes food secure, and help to stamp out hunger.
  3. Farmers (including those who cannot read or write) learn new techniques in crop production, as they meet and teach each other.
  4. Farmers gain access to news and information, and thereby become more aware of what is going on around them. This stops buyers from cheating them.
  5. Farmers make better profits.

Other radio programs on farmers’ co-operatives might include:

  • A review of farmers’ co-operatives based on a series of interviews with farmers. Find out what crops they grow for sale, how much money they make per week or month, and what markets they find to sell their products.
  • Programs on the power of unity amongst farmers, and how co-operatives help them learn more about farming and get higher yields.
  • Radio spots or advertisements which show how forming co-operatives can help meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including the first MDG of working towards eradicating poverty and hunger in their villages.
  • Examples which show how farmers’ co-operatives can help farmers provide an education for their children.
  • Stories which encourage farmers to diversify crop production so they can feed their families a balanced diet and keep them healthy

The script is based on actual interviews. You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.

Cue in signature tune, fade under presenter.

Presenter: Good day to all listeners and farmers. I am glad you made a date with me on tonight’s edition of Zambia Today. I am your presenter, Alice Lungu Banda. Tonight we feature a farmer who represents a co-operative in Mumbwa District, Central Province of Zambia. He talks to us about the co-operative he and 48 other farmers formed in order to sustain their agriculture business and, of course, provide their homes with food. Please stay tuned.

Cue in music for 10 seconds. Fade out under presenter.

Presenter: Agriculture in Zambia faces several challenges, including the climate becoming harsher, which destabilizes crop and livestock production. It is predicted that these climatic changes will continue to stress the country. In drought years, the country currently relies on food imports to ensure food security. The fact that farm inputs like seeds and fertilizers are unaffordable also adds to farmers’ difficulties. Relying on rain fed agriculture is also challenging for small-scale farmers. Even when rains are good, farmers often have insufficient food or income between November and March when farm labour is most needed.

There is no doubt that farmers’ co-operatives are effective strategies to lessen the impact of crises in many rural communities in Zambia.

Before we speak with a farmer today, I want to give you a definition of a co-operative. This definition comes from the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture. “A co-operative is any enterprise or organization owned collectively by its members and managed for their joint social and economic benefit, and whose activities are not prohibited by law. A co-operative is a group of people with a common goal to do business and make a profit, and which sets certain rules for its activities and convenes regular meetings to monitor its operations.” According to the international co-operative movement, a co-operative has the following seven characteristics: Co-operatives have a voluntary and open membership; they are democratically controlled by their members; their members participate economically in their activities; they are independent of government or industry control; they offer education, training and information to members; and they are concerned with their local community. The seventh characteristic is that there is co-operation between different co-operatives.

We will be back. Please stay tuned.

Cue in music for 10 seconds. Fade out under presenter.

Presenter: Welcome back. The following program shows farmers working together to produce maize seed and pigs for their families as well as for sale in Mumbwa District, Central Province of Zambia. The name of the co-operative is Nakabu Co-operative. I will be talking to a farmer who is the treasurer of Nakabu Co-operative, Mr. Laban Chiyabuka.

Mr. Chiyabuka, welcome and thank you for accepting our invitation to come and talk about Nakabu Co-operative on Zambia Today.

Farmer: You’re welcome and thank you for having me.

Presenter: Mr. Chiyabuka, why did you form the Nakabu Co-operative?

Farmer: In 2006, I planted two hectares of maize on two hectares of land. I planned to sell it to sustain my family. But, unfortunately, that year Mumbwa District was hit with a drought and I ended up harvesting very little, too little to even eat at home, let alone to sell and get my six children to school. Life became difficult for me and my family.

Because I was not going anywhere with my farming, I sat down with four of my friends who were also farmers in my area. We discussed the idea of forming a farmers’ co-operative in order to do farming seriously and find ways to survive. We had our first meeting at my home, where we discussed what we would grow and sell. At the second meeting, we agreed on the name of the co-operative and the amount of money we each needed to contribute. We also agreed on who we thought could be invited to be part of the co-operative to increase our capital. The amount of money we agreed on was 50,000 Zambian kwacha each (Editor’s note: about US $10.50 in 2008).

Presenter: How many members did you have at first?

Farmer: There were 49 people who were interested in the idea and who registered. After putting our money together, we bought maize from farmers in nearby villages, then travelled to Lusaka and sold the maize to a milling company. It was easy for us to sell the maize because we had a large volume when we combined our harvests. Otherwise, it is not easy to just go to a milling company or any other company to sell something.

With the profit we made, we visited the Zambia National Farmers Union offices. We registered our co-operative and sought advice on what crops to grow with or without rain. We wanted a crop which could give us some profit during the winter season, from May to July. But we did not get what we wanted.

However, around that time, people from an agricultural company called Conservation Farming Unit came to our area to teach farmers to grow crops with conservation farming methods. That is when I and my other friends got the idea to grow maize seeds to sell to other farmers in our village. We spoke to the coordinator of the Conservation Farming Unit about our idea and he seemed pleased with it. We then spoke to his superiors. They were happy with our idea and sent a group of people to train us to grow maize seed. It is important to learn together, especially since we are operating our own businesses, and are not operating under the control of another company or the government.

Presenter: How long did the training take and what exactly did you learn?

Farmer: The training took three months and we learned a lot of things. We learned the right types of soils in which to grow maize seed, how to deal with diseases if there is an outbreak, and the importance of keeping your field weed-free until harvest time.

Presenter: Was the training free of charge?

Farmer: No, we paid some money for the training course. But it was worth it. Also, some farmers were allowed to pay in instalments.

Presenter: When did you put what you learned into practice?

Farmer: Immediately after we completed the training, we invested the money we had made earlier into growing irrigated maize seed. We managed to produce 20 bags of maize seed, which we sold to local farmers. We did not make much profit, because we sold the seeds to local farmers at a lower price. We had just started our business and our product had not yet won the trust that other seed companies had earned. Thus, most farmers opted to buy from ordinary seed companies in town. But the following year we doubled our production and increased the price of the seeds a bit. Thus, we were able to make a little profit.

Presenter: We will be back in a minute to continue our discussion with Mr. Chiyabuka from Nakabu Co-operative.

Cue in signature tune. Cue in presenter with voice over.

Presenter: In case you’ve just tuned in, you’re listening to Zambia Today. On today’s programme, we are talking with a farmer who is also a treasurer of Nakabu Co-operative, Mr. Laban Chiyabuka. He is telling us about the benefits he and 48 other farmers in Mumbwa District have experienced since forming a co-operative in their village, and how their lives have changed for the better.

Cue out signature tune for 5 seconds.

Presenter: Mr. Chiyabuka, why do you think farmers in your village prefer to buy maize seed from your co-operative and not from seed companies in town?

Farmer: I think it is because our seed has proved to be generally good and yields good results for the farmers. Also, it costs less than seeds from seed companies. Our seeds cost 60,000 Zambian kwacha per 10 kilograms (Editor’s note: about US $12.50 in 2008). By comparison, seed companies sell their seed for 70,000 Zambian kwacha per 10 kilograms. Besides, local farmers who need seed in large quantities can buy our seed right in the village. They don’t have to spend time and money booking a vehicle. Most, if not all, seed companies in this country will not deliver to farmers’ doorsteps. So we capitalized on those advantages and, fortunately, we’re growing bigger by the day. Also, since we are from the community and we are the neighbours of the other farmers, they trust us. They know that our profits will benefit the community and not just flow into the city, like when they buy from another company

Presenter: You seem to be doing fine. Do you face any challenges in your seed business?

Farmer: Of course we have challenges. Like you mentioned earlier, the climate has really changed and become harsh on us farmers. Unlike the past when we used to have droughts, we now have too much rain which leads to floods in many parts of our village. Too much rain is causing our crops to grow poorly because the field is waterlogged. This stops us from keeping our fields weed-free. Sometimes the floods carry away our crops with their strong current. So, if the rains continue like this, we are afraid we may not yield anything this coming season.

Presenter: What kinds of things can you do to mitigate these kinds of loss?

Farmer: We do not only grow maize seed – we ventured into raising pigs as well. This has proved to be a very good idea. We have been selling pigs to a company known as Real Meat. As a co-operative, it was again easy for us to enter into a contract with a meat company. We signed a contract with this company to sell our pigs at 10,000 Zambian kwacha (Editor’s note: about US $2 in 2008) per kilogram. Depending on the number of pigs and how big the pigs grow, we are able to cover any losses from the maize seed business. Meanwhile, I am glad to tell the listeners and my fellow farmers that we feed the pigs well and prevent any possible outbreak of disease in pig pens. As a result, when we take them for sale, they weigh at least 35 kilograms each, giving us a good profit.

Also, we are talking with other co-operatives in Zambia. There are so many co-operatives with different skills. We are visiting to learn from one another. As individual farmers, we could not afford to hire an agricultural extension worker. But as a group, we can. So we have learned new techniques to reduce damage from flooding and to conserve water in times of drought.

Presenter: When you sell your pigs to the Real Meat Company, how much money do you make on a good day?

Farmer: We make as much as eight million Zambian kwacha (Editor’s note: about US $1700 in 2008).

Presenter: That is a considerable amount. What do you do with the money?

Farmer: We re-invest some and share the rest amongst ourselves for our families.

Presenter: What differences have you seen in your lives from the time you started this co-operative?

Farmer: There has been a lot of progress in my life as well as in the lives of other members. Speaking for myself, all my six children are in school now. The older ones have even gone as far as university. I used to live in a grass thatched hut, but now I am in a nice big house with roofing sheets on it. My personal business – which is also pigs – is doing extremely well. So I cannot complain.

Presenter: As we come to the end of this interview, what words of encouragement do you have for your fellow farmers who are struggling with their farming businesses?

Farmer: My advice to them is that they should unite as farmers. They should come up with an idea to grow something, and not procrastinate but just do it quickly. I think the government, the Zambian National Farmers Union, or any agriculture company will more readily help a group of farmers than an individual, because the farmers will speak with one big voice. It is almost impossible for them to do business with one person. Nakabu Co-operative is doing fine, even with all the challenges in the agricultural sector in this country, because we are united and because we work together for the future of our families. So all I can say is, farmers and listeners out there – form farmers’ co-operatives and you will never go wrong.

Presenter: Farmers and listeners, you’ve heard for yourselves what Mr. Laban Chiyabuka has said. I hope this edition of Zambia Today has taught you one or two things that will enhance your farming business. For any questions or feedback, you may write a letter to the producer of Zambia Today at P.O. Box 50015, Lusaka. Until next week when we bring you another educational program, on behalf of the production team, I am Alice Lungu Banda saying good night.

Acknowledgements

This script is an update of Package 83, Script 8, which was distributed in March 2008. The original script was written by Alice Lungu Banda and reviewed by Rodd Myers, Senior Programme Manager, International Development, and Agricultural Development Specialist, Canadian Co-operative Association.

The original script was adapted from a program produced on December 20, 2007, on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation.

Thanks to:

  • Zambia National Farmers Union, Showgrounds, Lusaka, Zambia.
  • Nakabu Co-operative, Mumbwa District, Zambia.
  • Conservation Farming Unit, Plot A30 Palm Drive Road, Lusaka, Zambia.

Special thanks to the Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW) Social Justice Fund for supporting the original script on the work of farming.

Program undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

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