Climate Changes Farm Advisor's Message
Inutu Now Tells Farmers To Prepare For Drought
The rains didn’t come in November, as they used to. When they did begin in December, here in Zambia’s Copperbelt Province, they didn’t last long.
“The drought has really impacted the farmers,” said Inutu Musialela, 53. “In February, it didn’t rain at all. In March, it did rain, but not until the last week.”
“Most of the crops were planted, like maize and sunflower. The rains started but then they went off. The farmers were hit with that. Their crops didn’t grow.”
Since Inutu began working with iDE in 2012, she says the local climate has changed significantly. As a Farm Business Advisor (FBA), Inutu has taught small scale farmers how to fertilize and protect their crops from pests.
Nowadays she spends just as much time teaching farmers how to become resilient to climate change, telling them to plant early maturing crops that require less water, or that they should plant a greater diversity of crops should some varieties fail.
“Because climate change has hit us now, I encourage them to prepare the land before the rains come.”
“They dig holes, like a basin, to plant their crops inside. These potholes hold water around the roots. There they can grow soybeans, maize, anything.”
iDE has trained more than 300 FBAs across Zambia who leverage existing market players, such as suppliers and transporters, to increase small farm productivity, improving access to inputs for farmers and building links with commercial markets.
Sylvester Kalonge, iDE Zambia country director, said iDE believed the market offered the best way to incentivize people and find sustainable solutions that can be passed down through generations.
“FBAs act as the last-mile link for inputs and the first-mile link to output markets,” said Sylvester Kalonge, iDE Zambia country director.
“Using a business-minded approach, FBAs identify farmer needs, nurture, and grow local demand for agricultural goods and services, as well as create relationships with preferred input and suppliers for quality seed, fertilizer and equipment.”
Inutu first became involved with iDE when she was working as a farmer and had to travel 25 miles to a large town to buy tools and seeds, and then make the same trip a few months later to sell what she had grown. This was both expensive and time consuming.
Sensing an opportunity— and willing to disrupt traditional gender roles—Inutu decided to train as an FBA, learning about business and budgeting, saving groups and modern agricultural techniques such as irrigation, fertilizer, pest control and post-harvest management.
With iDE’s help, she drew up a business plan with the idea of supplying inputs to local farmers herself from a small shop she constructed in a rural area.
This meant farmers could access inputs near their homes, rather than traveling to larger towns, reducing the time and expense required to source these products.
Now as an experienced FBA, she works with about 3,000 farmers, selling inputs and working as an aggregator, buying crops in bulk, providing farmers with higher market prices, and reducing the time and expense they face transporting and selling their produce.
“iDE helped me. They linked me to some suppliers. Suppliers of seeds. They linked me to off-takers. They are some groups which buy. They buy soya beans, groundnuts, and maize.”
With additional income she’s generated, she has built a bigger shop close to her old one. “My business has grown. iDE even helped me to build this shop. They gave me a grant which I used to buy iron sheets for the roof.”
But despite her own success, many of Inutu’s customers haven’t been as fortunate, especially since the effects of climate change have increased in recent years, disrupting traditional farming practices.
Whereas farmers previously benefited from the market links and advice Inutu provided, they now must also contend with more extreme weather events such floods and drought, which have compounded the challenges they face.
The United Nations Development Programme says Zambia has been experiencing adverse impacts from climate change including an increase in frequency and severity of seasonal droughts, occasional dry spells, increased temperatures in valleys, flash floods and changes in the growing season.
One of Inutu’s customers, Annette Mwemba, 24, purchased groundnut seeds from Inutu on credit and was planning to repay her with money she made from the harvest.
“I planted this year, but they aren’t doing well because the rains have been poor,” says Annettee.
“The crops are still in the ground. You can see the plant. But the pods are very poor. When they started flowering, the rains stopped. The maturity is bad.”
As a mother of two, who recently returned to farming after caring for a sick relative in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, Annette says she will be forced to repay the loan using money she makes from selling the soybean crop she is also growing.
“I will get something. But it won’t be enough to pay the loan. I will supplement with soybeans. But I will have less soybeans for my family and less to sell.”
While Annette isn’t familiar with the science behind climate change, she says she has noticed the rains have been getting shorter and shorter every year.
“Going forward, I will do more soybeans, but the early maturity variety. Inutu advised me that early maturity is the best way. I am going to come to her when they are harvested. She is the one who is going to tell me where to sell it.”
Circle Of Trust Powers Local Farmers
Not only do small-scale, low-income farmers lack the funds to sow their fields, they often don’t have access to institutions that can loan them money.
That’s why Inutu has partnered with Canon Garth, an socially-progressive international agricultural company, that provides her groundnut seeds, which she, in turn, sells to the farmers on credit.
Farmers put down 50 percent of the price for a 20 kilogram bag and Inutu records the sale in a receipt book. The loan is carried by Canon Garth, on the understanding it is repaid through Inutu once the harvest comes in.
Last year, Inutu received 69 bags of groundnut seeds from Canon Garth, which produces highly nutritious food. As she had a list of farmers waiting to receive the bags, she was able to sell them within a week.
Under the arrangement with Canon Garth, Inutu receives a commission from Canon Garth of 17 Kwacha (about US$1) per bag. She is also allowed to increase the price of a bag, so she can make an additional cut.
The arrangement is built on a circle trust: Canon Garth trusts Inutu to repay them for the 69 bags and Inutu, in turn, trusts the farmers to repay her for the seed once the harvest comes in. The farmers also trust that Inutu is supplying them with a good product.
“They know me. I sell genuine things. Tested seeds. Chemicals. They know I am a person registered with the government. I give them advice on farming. The other thing is, I am based here. There is nowhere else I can go.”
Canon Garth has been operating in Southern Africa since the late 1970s, supplying quality groundnut seeds to its customers while driving positive impacts for rural communities and the environment.
The arrangement the company has with Inutu is one of the many examples of how iDE makes connections within market ecosystems and opens up rural areas to commerce and trade.