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Food security in rural Zambia - The FOSEZA project. [in: Ernährung im Fokus – 02 2019 – Zeitschrift für Fach-, Lehr- und Beratungskräfte, Artikel-Nr. 5982. ISSN 1617-4518. Bundeszentrum für Ernährung. Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung (BLE)]



As the hotspots of hunger are in Sub-Saharan Africa, poverty and malnutrition also severely affect Zambia’s rural population. To promote food security in the country, foreign organisations, alongside the Zambian government, carry out development and research projects.
Food security in rural Zambia
The FOSEZA project
Besides chronic undernourishment, es-
sential nutrients are lacking in the daily
diets. Hidden hunger aects rural areas
in particular. Related deciency symp-
toms have irreversible consequences, es-
pecially for the mental and physical de-
velopment of children under the age of
ve. Inadequate nutrition often causes
growth disorders (Biesalski 2013).
The list of challenges for Zambia’s rural
regions is long. Due to a lack of quali-
cation, lack of mechanization and inputs-
being scarcely available and of low qua-
lity only, the agricultural cultivation sys-
tems’ productivity level is extremely low.
Maize and manioc monocultures domi-
nate while people tend to grow fruits and
vegetables in their home gardens. Fish
has traditionally been a valuable source
of protein and micronutrients for Zam-
bia’s rural population. Today, however,
many lakes and rivers are considered
The majority of Zambians live below the
poverty line and earn less than US$1.90
a day (United Nations 2017). Maize and in
particular manioc (cassava), cultivated by
the majority of farmers, constitute the
basis of people’s daily diet. The nation-
al dish Nshima traditionally consists of
maize our boiled with water. The texture
can range from being a rather dry cake to
creamy porridge. Depending on the avail-
ability, Nshima is also made from manioc.
Manioc tubers accumulate hydrocyanic ac-
id and are toxic when raw. They are there-
fore dried, ground into our and washed
with boiling water, fermented or heated
to destroy the toxins. Carbohydrate-rich
dishes made from maize and manioc are
the basis of almost every meal.
As the hotspots of hunger are in Sub-Saharan Africa, poverty and mal-
nutrition also severely aect Zambia’s rural population. To promote
food security in the country, foreign organisations, alongside the Zam-
bian government, carry out development and research projects.
The research region Mantapala in northern Luapula Province,
Photo: © Stev en Gronau
Photo: © Johannes Hadersdorfer/TUM
highly overshed. Deforestation aects
forests that host wild fruits and edible
The project region
Mantapala is located in the Congo Basin
and is part of the Nchelenge District in
the Luapula Province. This District has
hardly any infrastructure (e.g. electricity,
water, roads, trade, and nancial servi-
ces). The region Mantapala, located very
remotely in an extensive swamp and fo-
rest area, is only accessible via one gra-
vel road. As that becomes impassable in
parts during the rainy season, Mantapa-
la is temporarily cut o from the outside
The project region comprises 250
households from eight villages. Of the
approximately 1,500 people, the majo-
rity live in traditional huts without elec-
tricity or running water. In Luapula Pro-
vince, eight out of ten people are clas-
sied as poor (UN 2017). This Province
also has the highest proportion of un-
derweight children under the age of
ve. The level of education is extremely
low; more than half of Luapula’s popula-
tion has not completed primary school
(CS 2016; IAPRI 2016; UNDP 2013).
Smallholder cultivation of maize and
manioc, collecting rewood, and charco-
al production account for almost 90 per-
cent of economic activity (Gronau et al.
2018). On average, a household cultiva-
tes about one to three hectares of land.
In addition to maize and manioc, small
quantities of peanuts, beans, sweet po-
tatoes, rice and millet are cultivated.
Shifting cultivation is the region's tra-
ditional and characteristic feature. Far-
mers slash and burn forests to use the
land for agricultural production. After
a few years, farmers need to clear new
forests. Most families keep chickens,
ducks, goats and/or pigs. Some also sh
in nearby streams and rivers.
Area records show that the forest area
in the project region has declined signi-
cantly since 1990 (Gronau et al. 2018).
A similar trend applies to the resource
sh (Bwalya et al. 2015; Verelst 2013).
The FOSEZA Project
The project started in November 2016.
The integration of traditional fruit trees
and vegetable plants in maize and ma-
nioc monocultures aims to make food
production more diverse and to im-
prove the food situation. Strategies are
being developed and tested to increase
villagers’ acceptance of fruits and vege-
tables. Social networks and local busi-
ness models play a central role in this
context. For instance, FOSEZA supports
the development of a tree nursery for
traditional local fruit species. In addition
to the positive eects on nutrition, the
awareness of the value of the forest and
its associated ecosystem services shall
increase. Integrating shponds into the
production system is another central
concern. In demonstration elds, new
diversied cultivation systems are tes-
ted while participatory processes intend
to increase participants’ competencies
sustainably. An external research stati-
on analyses demonstration elds’ crop
yields in view of their contribution to
nutrition. Another central research as-
pect is the distribution of food within a
household considering gender-specic
The project team consists of around
20 employees, six of whom are doctoral
students. In addition, there are several
bachelor and master students.
Examples from everyday
project work
Data collection
During the initial project phase, detailed
household surveys were carried out for
a status quo analysis. These included
general household data such as socio-
demographic characteristics and eco-
nomic activities, sources of income, con-
sumption and expenditure, exploitation
of sh and forest resources, livestock
breeding and agricultural production.
In addition, soil and plant samples we-
re taken and comprehensive GPS mea-
surements were carried out. Besides
quantitative data, the project sta coll-
ected qualitative data through personal
interviews and focus group discussions.
Food Security in rural Zambia (FOSEZA): Integrating Traditional Fruit and Vegetable Crops in
Smallholder Agroforestry Systems
Project goals
The FOSEZA project aims to diversify agroforestry systems. This is to be achieved by integrating
traditional fruit trees and vegetable plants into agricultural cultivation systems:
• Diversication of agricultural production systems to promote a balanced diet
• Combination of agroforestry and aquaculture
• Investigation of the nutritional situation and development of sustainable diets
• Establishment of agricultural demonstration elds and a tree nursery
• Introduction of participatory approaches to knowledge transfer and improvement of
food distribution within households
• Capacity building: summer schools, training courses, workshops, bachelor, master and
doctoral theses and provision of scientic laboratory and agricultural equipment
and partners
Leibniz University Hannover (Coordinator)
Technical University Munich (TUM)
Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI)
Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock (Zambia)
University of Zambia (UNZA)
Copperbelt University (CBU)
Project team
The team consists of around 20 employees, six of whom are doctoral students. Several bachelor
and master students are also involved.
Project location
Zambia (Mantapala in the Luapula Province and ZARI Research Station in Mansa)
Duration and
project budget
Almost one million euro over three years
Funding Agency
Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL); project executing agency: Federal Ofce for
Agriculture and Food (BLE).
For further
Poverty and food situation
Preliminary analyses conrmed that households in the pro-
ject region are considered poor according to the internatio-
nally recognised denition. Analyses of food securit y indica-
tors (e.g. food consumption score, household food insecuri-
ty access scale) showed that, for the majority of households,
the food situation is unacceptable. At present, anthropome-
tric measurements are being prepared in order to be able to
provide information on the nutritional status of children un-
der the age of ve. Activities together with the village com-
munity on food processing, preparation and storage, hygie-
ne and nutrition are planned for 2019.
Social Networks
Experience has shown that research projects often have no
lasting eect because new knowledge and important skills
are not disseminated within the village community and are
not suciently practiced either. Initial data analyses re-
vealed that social networks in the project region are extre-
Interview with Beauty Choobe, doctoral student
at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and
Robert Chungu, member of the Nature Conservation
Group of Mantapala Region
How important are wild fruits for the villagers of Mantapala
and their food security?
Beauty: Due to a lack of income and because the market is too far
away, people in the region can hardly afford to buy fruits. Therefo-
re, wild fruits are vital for people. As they are one of the few sour-
ces of vitamins, they have a decisive inuence on food security.
Robert: Wild fruits are especially important for the children who
collect fruits during school breaks because their parents have no
money to buy food. Adults also eat wild fruits as small meals while
they work on their elds.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of
wild fruit consumption?
Beauty: Wild fruits’ main advantages are their ingredients. They
are rich in vitamins and antioxidants. A disadvantage or danger lies
in the fact that many fruits are eaten unripe and some seeds can
be harmful to human health.
Robert: Wild fruits can contribute to a balanced diet. Some plants
are also said to have a medicinal effect, against stomach pain,
for instance. Wild fruits are particularly important for the poorest
because they have no money to buy or to grow food. Selling wild
fruits can be a source of income. A big problem connected with
collecting them are snakebites and the long distances to the places
where they are collected.
How has wild fruit consumption changed in recent years?
Beauty: The per capita consumption of wild fruits in rural areas
has decreased. This is probably the result of the constant popula-
tion growth and the decline of fruit tree populations.
Robert: The consumption of wild fruits has declined because more
and more people are cutting down more and more trees. This leads
to a loss of wild fruits.
How to promote the cultivation of wild fruits?
Beauty: There is simply a lack of knowledge about cultivation
techniques for wild fruit trees. The villagers do not know how to
treat seedlings or how to domesticate wild fruits. In addition, there
is a widespread ignorance of processing practices such as the fruit
juice production or fruit storage. There is also no structure for mar-
keting wild fruits. Villagers must be educated accordingly. Scientic
analyses and publications are also lacking.
Robert: There is little knowledge about wild fruit cultivation
practices or about pest control and plant diseases. Farmers lack
knowledge about the ideal soil conditions that promote plant
growth. Extensive training could help here. By growing new fruit
trees, we can try to stop deforestation.
Beauty Choobe Robert Chungu
Farmers present one of their banana plants.
Photos: © Johannes Hadersdorfer/TUM
Photo: © Stev en Gronau
Manioc (front) and maize cultivation (background) in Mantapala.
Masuku, fruitAfromomum, fruit
Photo: © Stev en Gronau
Photo: © Stev en Gronau Photo: © Stev en Gronau
mely weak. A farmer has on average
only one to three trusted people with
whom he would discuss, for examp-
le, cultivation techniques. Within the
framework of agent-based modelling
will be investigated how new knowledge
and innovations are disseminated in the
village community and which measures
or persons could optimise this transfer.
Banana seedlings and
cultivation training
In an economic experiment (“reverse
auction”), smallholders’ individual wil-
lingness to cultivate, maintain and take
care of bananas for one year was tes-
ted. Currently, banana cultivation is al-
most unknown in Mantapala. The “auc-
tion” helped to identify more than 30
farmers who were willing to take care of
ve banana seedlings each and to com-
plete a related training. Other farmers
made extremely high bids as they appa-
rently did not consider banana growing
Reverse auction
The principle is opposed to a ’normal’
auction where the highest bidder wins.
Here, the bidder who places the lowest
(secret) bid wins the auction, being the
person who shows the highest motivati-
on for the task and asks least.
First results showed that the banana
plants are in a very good condition and
almost all farmers apply the knowledge
they acquired during the training. Win-
ners of the “auction” also showed that
they were signicantly more risk-see-
king than the other participants. This
suggests an increased willingness to
make investments and an openness to
innovation. These people could be "pio-
neers" and actively support new agricul-
tural systems.
Demonstration elds
and shponds
Together with the villagers, demon-
stration elds were set up on an ar-
ea of about two hectares. Local farm-
ers cultivate various agricultural prod-
ucts such as soybeans, sweet potatoes,
peanuts, modern manioc varieties and
pumpkin on 42 plots. Local fruit trees
are planted between the individual
plots. This is supposed to enrich the soil
and the harvest through indirect fertil-
isation, soil loosening and less drying
out of the soil. The farmers receive am-
ple support via trainings, seeds, fer-
tiliser and suitable equipment. Curr-
tently, a storage house for the harvest
and a stable for oxen are being built
to ease the cultivation of the elds.
The demonstration elds represent a
diversied agroforestry system. These
aim to inspire farmers to transfer a
similar system to their own elds. At
the same time, new shponds are be-
ing created. Required inputs and spe-
cic training are provided through the
Wild fruits
Indigenous wild fruits play a vital role in
people’s daily diets. However, at times,
places where to nd and gather fruits
and berries are kilometres away from
the villages. The plants grow in the wild
and uncontrolled, while yields uctuate
strongly. In addition, paths might lead
through swamps and are dangerous,
not least due to poisonous snakes. Ac-
cording to data analysed to date, ma-
suku (Uapaca kirkiana), intungulu (Afro-
momum africanum), impundu (Parina-
ri curatellifolia) and imfungo (Anisophyl-
lea boehimii) were the most frequently
gathered fruits. Currently, extensive re-
search regarding their nutritional val-
ue is carried out in laboratories at the
Dr. Steven Gronau (Studies [BSc, MSc] and Ph.D. in
Economics at Leibniz University of Hannover) has
been working at the University of Hannover’s Institute
for Environmental Economics and World Trade since
2013. Within the project, he is involved in coordina-
tion and budget planning.
Dr. Steven Gronau
Leibniz University Hannover
Institute for Environmental Economics und World
Königsworther Platz 1, 30167 Hannover
Group picture with the villagers.
Photo: © Stev en Gronau
University of Zambia (UNZA) and at the
Technical University of Munich (TUM).
At present, work is being done together
with the local population to deepen the
knowledge of indigenous plants. At the
same time, the rst successes in the cul-
tivation of wild fruits are visible. The ob-
jectives are to increase both food securi-
ty and income (Choobe et al. 2018).
ZARI Research Station
At the ZARI research station in Mansa,
comprehensive analyses of eld crops
are carried out in order to test their
productivity (e.g. growth under various
cultivation and fertilisation measures,
yields, integration of new crops such as
legumes) and quality (e.g. nutritional va-
lues). Via trainings and the provision of
appropriate seeds, the station also sup-
ports progress on the demonstration
For example, it was examined to what
extent the harvesting of leaves from
growing crops for consumption as ve-
getables – a common practice in Zambia
– results in yield losses. Results show-
ed that the removal of 75 percent of the
leaves from six-week-old bean stands
does not entail yield losses. There are
no results yet available for manioc due
to the forthcoming harvest.
Tree nurseries and
A nature conservation group in the
Mantapala area dedicates its eorts to
reforestation and biodiversity conserva-
tion and, with the support of the FOSE-
ZA project, has successfully set up a tree
nursery where collected seeds are culti-
vated and where farmers can purchase
seedlings to plant them in the elds. The
experiences of the nature conservation
group contributed signicantly towards
the creation of a social network.
In addition to the current activities, the
FOSEZA project plans to carry out fur-
ther scientic nutrient analyses of local
food plants and to provide nutrition ed-
ucation programmes for the population.
People in Mantapala are open-minded
and motivated to learn about and test
new production approaches to improve
their own nutritional situation sustain-
ably. In the course of time, a friendly co-
operation developed between the proj-
ect team and the village community.
The FOSEZA approaches are long-term;
some fruit trees in the demonstration
elds will not bear fruits until years after
the project will have ended. Establishing
social networks should contribute to the
successful continuation of innovations
even after the end of the project.
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in the magazine ”Ernährung im Fokus”
02 2019 <<
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