Joining Hands To Plant Ideas for Better Livelihoods

Originally published on December 15, 2014.

For rural livestock farmers in Zambia, finding affordable, certified fodder seed was a huge challenge, making it difficult for smallholder farmers to engage in meaningful fodder production. It was for this reason that the Zambia Fodder Pilot Project (ZFP) set a goal to make fodder seeds available and accessible to targeted communities. The Project partnered with the Seed Certification and Control Institute of Zambia (SCCI) to train 20 local fodder seed growers in order to establish rural fodder seed banks that ensure seeds are available, accessible, and affordable for farmers beyond the life of the project. The 20 farmers, almost half of whom were women, were specially selected by their communities, with technical support from local agricultural officers and project staff, to pioneer the production of fodder seed.  Seed production was a specialized activity. The communities therefore selected these farmers, who were from three districts of the Southern Province where ZFP worked, on the basis of their ability to implement the technical requirements and regulations of seed production.

The training, led by Land O’Lakes International Development through ZFP, was part of the project’s efforts to develop, test and document best practices in sustainable fodder production and storage, while ensuring optimal nutrition for herds. The two-year project was funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). Land O’Lakes also focused on creating and nurturing farmer links to livestock and input markets, including fodder seed farms.

FOSGAZA members pose for a photo with the Zambia Fodder Pilot Project team.
On July 12, 2013, the day they graduated from an intense week-long course in commercial fodder seed production, these farmers emerged as the first-ever registered fodder seed growers in Zambia.  
Inspired, the 20 fodder seed growers who were trained through this partnership with SCCI immediately embarked on a productive journey in establishing rural fodder seed banks. Their resolve to maintain a cohesive, coordinated group to collectively shape and grow the fodder seed industry gave birth to the country’s first fodder seed producers’ group.

The group – Fodder Seed Growers Association of Zambia (FOSGAZA) – focused on registering members, coordinating the welfare of seed growers, and certifying seed. FOSGAZA also facilitated the organization and coordination of field inspections, seed-making, conflict resolution, and capacity-building for new seed growers. The association also carried out community campaigns to raise awareness of the negative effects of illegal seed trading. The illegal seed trade distorted the seed market and promoted the sale of substandard seed which lead to poor yields, ultimately undermining farmers’ livelihoods.
 
ZFP worked with FOSGAZA to ensure that all trained seed growers were registered and certified as seed growers by SCCI. The process involved the inspection of farmer fields to ensure the fields met the required standards for seed production. The fields meant for seed production must meet specified isolation distances from other fields to prevent contamination of the seed through cross pollination. Meeting these requirements was beneficial to these farmers as it assured them of market for their seed, thus guaranteeing them profits from the businesses.  Land O’Lakes was also working to procure parent seeds for the 2013-2014 planting season for these up-and-coming fodder seed producers.

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