Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (test)

Plant breeding programs in Zambia

The republic of Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The agricultural sector accounts for 85% of total employment and represents 20% of the GDP (2000).Zambia_Map Nevertheless, Zambia’s large potential in agriculture remains under-exploited. In fact, while 58% of land (4.2 million hectares) is classified as medium to high potential for agricultural production, only 14% is cultivated. Over 70% of households still grow maize as the major staple crop. Nevertheless trends show increases in more profitable, drought resistant food crops such as sorghum, cassava, millet and tubers.

The public sector of plant breeding research in Zambia, represented by 5 organizations, is active since 1954 while the private sector, represented by only 2 organizations is there since 1986. However the private sector devotes a much larger proportion of its budget to crop improvement compared to the public sector.

Maize is the most important crop in Zambia and receives an overall average of 60.6% of budget allocations for plant breeding research. This is followed by cotton, wheat and sorghum and millets. The plant breeding programmes in Zambia do in general respond to farmers’ needs. Both the public and private sector are attempting to develop varieties with tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress. The devastating maize fungal disease called Grey Leaf Spot (GLS) is of great concern.

The limitations to the success of plant breeding programmes in Zambia include the low number of plant breeders at MSc. or Ph.D levels, and the lack of policy on the ownership  on public bred varieties.

Research and education institutes with activities in plant breeding

Public Institutes


University of Zambia
Website available in English

The University of Zambia is a public sector highest learning institution of Zambia. As an educational institution involved in research, the University of Zambia, School of Agricultural Sciences has always had highly trained staff in plant breeding.


Soils and Crops Research Branch (SCRB)
No Website available

The SCRB is a branch of the ministry of Agriculture and has been the most active institution in plant breeding in Zambia. It has had a very wide mandate of crops to work on. It has a mandate to develop improved varieties of all important crops in the country. The SCRB has released a number of very successful varieties of cereal crops, oil crops, and root and tubers crops.

Private Institutes


Website available in English

Seedco is a private Zimbabwean Seed Company operating in Zambia for the past seven years, mainly as a marketing outlet for the mother company in Zimbabwe. Seedco Zambia has only been engaged in line evaluation for the purpose on generating data on the adaptation of their varieties to the Zambia growing conditions.


Maize Research Institute Seed (MRI Seed)
No Website available

The MRI is a private seed company which has only been practicing conventional plant breeding. It focuses mainly on germplasm enhancement.


Cotton Development Trust (CDT)
No Website available

The CDT is a trust, that means that it is part of both private and public sector. Its sole mandate is promoting the cotton industry by developing improved cotton production technologies. It has only used conventional plant breeding methods.


Information by Davies M. Lungu (2006). - Information based on the Zambia's full report from the PBBC survey. Last revised 26-06-2010, GIPB.