Innovation in Zimbabwe

SMLP Project in Zimbabwe

Guest Contributor: Paul Chimedza, Africare Country Director in Zimbabwe

December 15, 2010

Today in Washington D.C., Africare-Zimbabwe’s Soybean Market Linkages Project (SMLP) was recognized by InterAction’s “Best Practices & Innovations” (BPI) Initiative for its strength in improving rural smallholder access to markets, value chain development, and nutrition. InterAction launched BPI with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to promote information sharing on effective program approaches and boost the impact of field programs.

In Zimbabwe smallholder farmers traditionally suffer from low agricultural productivity, inadequate extension support, and limited access to both input and output markets. Furthermore, erratic rainfall, extended droughts, soil degradation, and hyperinflation exacerbate these challenges, resulting in consistently poor harvests, widespread food insecurity, and the erosion of household assets. Despite these obstacles and with generous support from the Rockefeller Foundation, Africare-Zimbabwe’s Soybean Market Linkages Project (SMLP) has succeeded in empowering rural smallholder farmers and assisting them in growing high value, drought tolerant, nutrient-fortified crops in order to maintain household food and income security sustainably over the long-term. SMLP supported beneficiary households in:

• Boosting soybean production through enhanced seed multiplication techniques;
• Increasing access to microcredit opportunities for agro-processing inputs and establishing a community-driven soybean oil processing industry;
• Promoting proper post-harvest handling and storage techniques; and,
• Strategically marketing soybean grain within local and regional markets through farmer-led Soybean Commodity Associations able to negotiate for fair prices.

Soybean OilPressing Machine

SMLP introduced an innovative approach to expand market access by using mobile phone technology to track market prices at “marketing information points” and then disseminate timely information directly to rural smallholder farmers and cooperatives. Additionally, in conjunction with on-going research at the University of Zimbabwe, SMLP made agricultural research an iterative process in that smallholders themselves were encouraged to experiment with techniques to fortify livestock feed and maximize the shelf life of soy-based products.

In total, SMLP trained 5,320 farmers using the lead training approach and supported 2,087 households in soybeanmarketing and production over 525 hectares of Mashonaland Province. Participants saw their yields double – with some farmers obtaining yields of even 2 to 3t/ha. The project also supported equitable project outcomes for rural beneficiary women and youth. Approximately 52% of SMLP beneficiaries are women who have been empowered to overcome gender barriers in traditional cash-crop agriculture and increase their own household cash resources. Many young community members have also joined their elder counterparts in soybean production. Voted the “Best Soybean Farmer in Bindura”, 22 year old Edward Chitauro noted, “many young people flock to urban centers in search of employment, but with crops such as soybean the money is here in the rural areas”.

The success achieved by Africare-Zimbabwe’s SMLP initiative provides tangible proof that smart agricultural development has the ability to simultaneously combat hunger, eradicate poverty, and increase household income generating opportunities. I am extremely proud of the work we have done in Zimbabwe and I hope that this award will help us scale-up our project across sub-Saharan Africa to help many more people lift themselves out of poverty.

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