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For statistical purposes, the Ministry of Agriculture in Zambia divide the agricultural sector into four main groups as follows (SOURCE: Ministry of Agriculture Planning Unit):

Small-scale-less than 5 ha
Emergent-5 to 20 ha
Commercial-20 + ha
Institutional-20 + ha

Under this categorization, there were 554 999 small-scale farmers in 1989, of whom 22.7% were female; 49 700 emergent farmers, of whom 7.3% were female; 1 980 commercial and 2 516 institutional farms.

Farm areas in the various categories in 1989 were as follows:

Small-scale-1 586 334 ha
Emergent-428 422 ha
Commercial-905 934 ha
Institutional-1 143 810 ha

The small-scale sector is clearly very important for national food supply. Its main function is to supply crops for staple foodstuffs, predominantly maize for mealie meal. Market supply of livestock comes principally from the commercial sector. Ministry of Agriculture estimates indicate that the “traditional” sector supplies only 2% of slaughtered poultry meat and between 4% and 7% of cattle for slaughtering. Livestock production in this sector is nevertheless important for home and local consumption. Regional and national totals of livestock in the “traditional” sector in 1989 are shown in Table 4.

Table 4 LIVESTOCK POPULATIONS IN THE TRADITIONAL SECTOR 1989 (SOURCE: Ministry of Agriculture Planning Unit)
Central285 18926 0376 994
Copperbelt22 1187 8132 705
Eastern289 791150 669110 718
Lusaka41 4285 9071 980
Luapula11 11032 234862
Northern96 76621 4102 691
North Western58 24213 36512 450
Southern964 273294 63144 056
Western524 1805 2483 706
Total Zambia2 293 097557 314186 162

NOTE: For examples of regional totals of chicken and duck populations see section 3.3


The general picture of small-scale farming in Zambia is one of domination of crop production. Cattle are kept principally for draught purposes and are normally slaughtered for home or ceremonial consumption only after or towards the end of their useful life as draught animals. Smaller animals are also kept as scavengers and are used primarily as a source of meat for home consumption. Animals are kept in stalls only at night for security or during parts of the growing season to avoid crop damage. This type of agriculture is typical of both subsistence plus and market-related small-scale agriculture. There are, of course, regions or particular areas within regions where there is greater concentration of livestock production for wider markets and crop production for livestock feeding. However, the predominant agriculture type within the small-scale sector is clearly crop-dominated. This has major implications for the integration of fish-farming into the small-scale farming systems. The main types of waste available for feeding and fertilizer will be vegetable waste and, therefore, of relatively low grade. Also, existing livestock management systems are extensive or low level and the farmers' production strategies are diverse rather than specialized. Thus capacity to apply intensive management does not generally exist.


Global production figures and identification of type of agriculture help to give a more differentiated picture of an agricultural sector and to identify potentials and constraints within it. However, a considerably greater and more detailed understanding of the complexity of the factors operating within a farming community and influencing farmers' decisions and strategies can be achieved through the analysis of farming systems. Analyses of local farming systems can help identify appropriate approaches to the development of increased or new production, such as the integration of fish-farming into existing crop and livestock production systems.

The following examples of analyses of small-scale farming systems in rural areas of Zambia illustrate the types of systems operated and the level of detailed information and understanding that can be achieved.

Case Study A.Ndola Rural District (Copperbelt)
(SOURCE: GRZ/EC Smallholder Development Project)

1) Farming systems identified:

Farmers in the area surveyed practise three basic farming systems:

2) Household survey results:

A baseline survey of 4 999 households in the district was conducted. The following aggregate results give a relatively detailed picture of the structure and operation of the local economy.

-Percentage of female headed households26
-Percentage of households growing crops98
-Percentage of households selling crops84
-Number of persons per household5.3
-Percentage of children in population68

Income from sales:

ProductPercentage of Households

*   mainly sales of eggs
** includes sales of basketwork, knitted products, furniture, venison, mushrooms, bricks, thatching grass, homemade tools, pottery, canoes, carvings, tinsmith products, wild honey, herbs, earnings from ox hire, blacksmithing, tailoring, radio and watch repairs, milling, building, traditional healing, shoe repairs, groceries and hawking.

Income from wage earning:

Source of EmploymentPercentage of Households
Small Farms11
Outside District15

Livestock ownership:

Livestock TypePercentage of Households

* includes guinea fowl, guinea pigs and pigeons

Crops grown:

CropPercentage of Households
Hybrid maize37
Local maize63
Sweet potatoes62
Bambarra nuts31

Use of dambo/dry season gardens: 20% of households surveyed grew vegetables in dambo areas, which are also suitable for aquaculture, during the dry season.

The above survey clearly confirms the predominance of crop-growing as the major activity and source of income and food. The local economy is obviously mixed cash and subsistence, and there is a wide range of ancillary income earning activities which are pursued by significant proportions of the local population. These activities are important ways in which the subsistence farmers can improve their living conditions, and their value has to be recognized. Through extensive, integrated fish-farming, further similar opportunities can be created simply by the more efficient use of existing human and natural resources.

The survey also establishes the main use of livestock as being for draught purposes and small animals being kept for home consumption of meat, although farmers also sell some eggs. The type of agriculture is clearly Settled Type One.

NOTE: The GRZ/EC project includes programmes of investment to increase the utilization of local dambo areas through the construction of dams for irrigation of vegetable plots. The project is also aiming to increase the use of oxen in the area through a credit scheme for the smallholders. Recommendations arising from the survey also include the promotion of changes to the management of oxen. Specifically, it is recommended that oxen are provided with better diets based on improved and introduced tree species, and also with improved housing and collection pits for dung which is currently wasted.

These activities have distinct implications for integrated fish farming in the area and there should obviously be some form of collaboration between such agricultural development projects and aquaculture development projects. Significantly, the agriculture project personnel have clearly identified fish culture as a means of increasing local food production at the village level.

Case Study B.Farming Systems in Luangwa Valley, Eastern Province
(SOURCE: Adaptive Research Planning Unit. Annual Report, 1987/1988. Survey Report by De la Paz, Kasuta and Waterworth)

1) Farming systems identified:

2) Recent survey work has been conducted to more closely examine factors influencing farming decisions. These factors were found to include the following:

The survey's main finding was that in the areas surveyed there were two distinct household types: resource-affluent and resource-poor. Resource-affluent households typically had food for most of the year, grew cotton, local maize or groundnuts for sale and generally had a more diverse cropping pattern. Resource-poor households had little food for between three to six months of the year and raised cash through the sale of sorghum beer. These households had less diverse cropping patterns and were generally trapped in a cycle of poverty in which they were forced to hire out labour in return for food, with the result that there was less time for cultivation of their own crops. The local names for resource-affluent households and for resource-poor households are “achikumbe” and “anjalla” respectively.

NOTE: The farming systems approach to agriculture in this case has clearly identified a specific target group and the planning unit's recommendations for further development work were based on the needs of this particular group, the resource-poor “anjalla”. Included in the survey's proposals for increasing production of the group was the development of fish culture, which again illustrates the need for collaboration between aquaculturalists and agriculturalists, and for the adoption of a more holistic approach by development agencies involved in integrated farming systems.


The analysis of farming systems gives a fuller picture of the complexity of factors influencing farming decisions and strategies. This appoach also helps identify the true potentials and constraints of the existing farming systems and consequently the development approaches which would be appropriate. Such an approach also enables more precise identification of target groups. The local examples of the farming systems approach illustrate these advantages. There are similar sources of information in most of Zambia's provinces and these sources should be used by those involved in the development of integrated fish-farming with small-scale farmers in the rural areas.

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