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Zambia is a large land-locked country (more than 752 000 km2) in Southern Africa with high transport costs: sea harbours are far from agricultural production centres. The transport costs make it difficult to compete with South Africa on bulk fruit as they have superior transport linkages with overseas markets.

Organic production in Zambia has taken an important step forward during the second part of the nineties. This has been triggered by the increasing demand for organic products from the United Kingdom supermarkets. Two commercial vegetable producers work organically and are handling the majority of exports. Besides, there are two small-scale farmers’ groups producing non-perishable products, such as honey, dried mushrooms and dried fruits.

1. Present organic production in the country

1.1 Certification

In the early days of organic agriculture the UK Soil Association gave assistance in setting-up an association for Zambia. The present Technical Advisor of the Organic Producer and Processor Association of Zambia (OPPAZ) had closely collaborated with Ecocert in Malawi.

In 2000 Ecocert had two inspection rounds in Zambia and a total of 2 500 ha was certified for organic production (large commercial and small-scale farms) as well as 8 000 ha of forest and bush-land for wild harvesting of mushrooms and bee keeping areas. There are in total 23 organic operators: 21 farms (including three large commercial ones) and two producer groups (of small farmers).

The main certified crops include several kinds of fresh export vegetables such as baby corn, baby carrot, fine beans and chillies; furthermore mushrooms, coffee, groundnuts, soybean, sesame, sugar cane, safflower, herbs (for dried leaf and essential oils) such as melissa, jasmine, Echinacea, lemon verbena, annatto, rosemary, lemon grass, citronella and honey are grown organically.

The Soil Association has inspected and certified 743 ha of which part is under cultivation, including one commercial farm and one producer group (beekeepers with 2 900 members). Certified export crops include: sugar snap peas, mange tout peas, shelling pea, dwarf bean, fine bean, runner bean, baby corn, sweet corn, courgette, patty pan, carrot, chili, asparagus, salad onion, honey and other bee products. One commercial farm has both the Ecocert and Soil Association certificates so that the produce is acceptable for several markets.

1.2 Description of the most important producers

1.2.1 Forest Fruits-Zambia

Forest Fruits was originally established to mill maize for local consumption from locally produced maize and diversified in 1994 by marketing wild mushrooms: the Cantharellus cibarius and the Amanita caesarea.

In 1997 they started with year round production of 70 ha pineapples by 20 small-holders for processing (drying) and buying and selling of bee products (honey and wax) for the domestic market.

In 1998 the company was financially assisted by "Zambili d’Afrique" to obtain organic certification of the bee products for export. Organic bee products are currently purchased from more than 1 000 registered honey producers and obtain 40 percent above conventional prices.

An organization known as Forest Fruits-Zambia works with small-scale farmers. These farmers get assistance from Forest Fruits but are free to deliver their products to them or any other buyer. Village representatives each organise a farmer group. These village representatives supervise the growers and carry out quality controls. Forest Fruits pays their salaries.

1.2.2 Agriflora Ltd.

Agriflora Ltd. is Zambia’s biggest commercial rose grower with over 50 million stems of export quality roses for the world market. In 1994 it started with export of "high-value/low-volume" conventional vegetables grown on company farms and by contract growers, who are distributed between Zambia’s three geographical zones to ensure year round supply of fresh quality produce.

In 1998 Agriflora started with organic production in response to requests from United Kingdom supermarkets. At present the organic vegetables are produced on 200 ha of the company farm with a small portion being produced in a 40 ha plot next to the Kasisi Training Institute. The trainees are employed to grow the vegetables.

Since 1999, Agriflora is certified by the Soil Association (United Kingdom) and Ecocert International (Germany). A total of 1 880 ha was inspected of which 1 660 ha are certified organic.

Products and Premiums

Agriflora has a fresh organic vegetable production of 500 tonnes with total value of US$2.5 million.

100 T Mange Tout

C+F UK value of

US$500 000

15 T Fine Beans

C+F UK value of

US$650 000

100 T Baby Corn

C+F UK value of

US$600 000

50 T Sugar Snaps

C+F UK value of

US$250 000

100 T Runner Beans

C+F UK value of

US$500 000

Organic crops are more seasonal than conventional crops and thus difficult to grow year round. United Kingdom supermarkets pay at least 30 percent premium over conventional prices and this is absolutely necessary to cover the lower yields and the extra rejects.


Soils in use by Agriflora are weak in structure and acidic. Fertility building and pH management need to be improved.

Growers need to learn more about diseases and insects and how to deal with these under organic production systems.

Organic production only sustains two crops per year in contrast with three conventional crops. In organic growing the third cropping period is used to grow a green manure crop. The company estimates that production is 30 percent lower than conventional vegetable production.

Agriflora is investigating what to do with the enormous amounts of rejected organic vegetables, which are actually still suitable for consumption, but need to be processed.

1.2.3 York Farm

York Farm started exporting conventional high-value/low-volume conventional vegetables to the United Kingdom supermarkets in 1989. Ten years later they started with a 10 ha organic trial plot. Their reasoning behind the start is to access the organic "niche" market in order to secure a strong position in future years. OPPAZ has assisted with the set up of York Farm’s trial plots and assists with the commercial production and marketing contacts.

Certification, Production and Premiums

In March 2001 Ecocert certified the trial plot. Another 200 ha will be in conversion for certification in June 2002. The first organic crops are baby corn, fine bean and carrots. The field has a set up of 28 beds (1.6 m each) and 3 beds of barrier crops like fennel, coriander, garlic, tephrosia, echinacea, basil, calendula, marigolds. They have embarked on large-scale compost making. York Farm will be growing the three vegetables 52 weeks of the year. Premiums are not considered because it is unrealistic to count on them. However, it seems that the retailer buying these products has a mark-up of 30 percent on the conventional products and only 10 percent on the organic produce to try and keep the price acceptable for the consumer.


Currently, more labour is used in the organic fields, especially for weeding and compost making. York Farm employs men and women workers. Men and women are equally salaried for the same type of work. Women are mainly working in the vegetable production; men perform the heavier tasks. About 66 percent of the workforces are women.

Manual labour is still relatively cheap and abundant. Daily salary is US$1.00 (one). Workers are trained on the job.


York Farm does not look at the organic local market. The rejects of the organic crops are sold conventionally on the local market. They feel there is not a big market for organic produce in Zambia. Therefore, the first organic crops will all go to Tescos in the United Kingdom. Although they are looking at other European markets they do not yet have enough produce for a regular supply.


The first investment in organic production will be "Drip Irrigation". Plastic mulches will be used. Currently there is only overhead irrigation available. The investment in compost making machinery, costing approximately US$20 000 is currently being researched. Organic sales should quadruple by the year 2004.

2. Institutions active in the organic sector at national and local levels

2.1 Farmer organizations

Mr Ian Landless learned about organic farming in the United Kingdom during his studies in the late eighties. Full of enthusiasm with regard to this type of farming he returned to Zambia in 1989 and started with organic production on 5 ha. He grew maize and different types of legumes. He formed an organic association with assistance of the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU), which accommodated the organic association at the start. The original "Organic Association" changed into the Environmental Conservation Association of Zambia (ECAZ) in 1990.

In the early nineties ECAZ received support from the UK Soil Association. More recently support was received from several different donors (see foreign and international agencies). OPPAZ was also established under the ZNFU in 1999 and registered in September 2000. Today the organisation has 26 members and 9 small-scale producer groups (source OPPAZ).

Under OPPAZ, Mrs Susie Burgess set up an Organic Advisory Service with funding from USAID (for more details see USAID). Her work mainly consists of providing technical advice and building awareness of the merits of organic production. Due to her efforts there has been a major increase in interest and certified land for 2000.

2.2 Government agencies

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF) is in the process of developing policies concerning organic agricultural production. This policy should be ready in June 2001. No legislation is anticipated.

The Agricultural Consultative Forum (Government, NGOs, private sector and donors are represented in this forum) expressed their commitment to the development of organic farming in Zambia, during the annual meeting of December 2000, as has the Minister of Agriculture.

2.3 Foreign and international agencies

International organizations supporting the organic movement are: USAID, ITC, SIDA, NORAD, PSDP (Private Sector Development Programme, which gets its funding from CDE (Centre of Development of Enterprise), Brussels), Netherlands Embassy, and GTZ.

Zambian Non-Governmental Organizations that support the organic movement are: CLUSA (Corporate League of the United States, sponsored by USAID), Zambili d’Afrique (funded by Traidcraft United Kingdom), CFU (Conservation Farming Unit, which falls under the umbrella of the ZNFU), LMCF (Land Management and Conservation Farming, the former SCAFE, funded by SIDA) and EEOA (Economic Expansion in Outlying Areas).

OPPAZ has further developed working relations with Kasisi Agricultural Training Trust, Harvest Help, Oxfam and CINDI (Children in Distress, based in the Copperbelt zone of Zambia). The Zambia delegation participated in the Bio Fach exhibition in a joint stand with other ACP (Africa-Caribbean-Pacific)-countries, all sponsored by CDE.

Zambili d’Afrique

Zambili’s services are product development (conventional and organic), business counselling for export and market facilitation. They work mainly with crafts and agricultural products (essential oils, cashew nuts, groundnuts, herbs & spices). They have assisted small-holder essential oil producers with market/price and product information. Zambili is a member of IFAT (International Federation of Alternative Trade). They are also a member of Fairtrade and are hoping to be able to carry the Fair Trade label soon. They have been inspected by ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative) and work together with FLO (Fair Trade Labelling Organization) and EFTA (European Fair Trade Association).


USAID is very much interested in organic agriculture with a view to poverty alleviation. During the 1998-2002 period, USAID has and will stimulate organic agriculture to increase the incomes of the rural population. In most of the rural areas traditional agriculture without the use of modern agro-chemicals is still being practised. USAID believes this is the main reason for the high potential for certified organic crops in Zambia.

USAID is giving support to OPPAZ to cover three major issues:

1. Supporting advisory services
2. Assist and coordinate certification missions
3. Develop market intelligence
3. Training institutions in organic agriculture

3.1 Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre

Kasisi is a Jesuit society, which runs a primary and secondary school as well as an agricultural training centre. Brother Paul Desmarais started the Agricultural Training Centre in 1974 with a two-year intensive course for groups of 10 farmers at a time. Trainees were and are provided with a house and a piece of land and they had/have to grow something on the land to support themselves.

Brother Paul’s motivation was to grow healthier food and work towards a better environment. For the trainees the main motivation was and still is a more sustainable and viable way of growing their crops. The vegetables (cabbage, rape, tomato, onion, pumpkin) produced at Kasisi are sold at Lusaka’s Soweto central market. The produce is believed to have a better shelf life than the conventionally produced vegetables.

Since 2000, a 13/4 ha plot has been inspected and certified by the Soils Association and Ecocert. On this plot about 20 different types of vegetables are grown, mainly for training purposes and on another 40 ha plot (also dual certification) fresh vegetables for the EC export-market are produced under supervision of Agriflora.


Training is given to small-scale farmers, primary school teachers and government extension officers. Since 1997, five-day training courses have been given in sustainable agriculture, covering: soil fertility, crop rotation, inter-planting, conservation tillage, green manure, biological control, compost making and agro-forestry. Kasisi is currently developing study group manuals that contain about 10 lessons on topics like agro-forestry, sustainable agriculture and minimum tillage. The lessons are linked with radio transmissions on the same agricultural topics. Approximately 35 percent of the farmers being trained at Kasisi are female.


The course fees are paid by the Swedish Cooperative Centre. Kasisi encourages people from the Southern African Region to come and follow the five-day courses. So far they have trained 1 200 Zambian small-scale farmers.

3.2 NRDC-ZEGA Training Trust (NZTT)

NZTT has developed a diploma course as well as "on-farm" training. In the third year, trainees get a module of organic production, integrated pest management and conservation farming practice. During the course they are taught "Good Farm Management Practices" and they are made aware of the impact of the use of chemicals on the environment. OPPAZ will be involved in the development and the delivery of the organic farming course at NZTT.


Funding is received from ZEGA Ltd., GTZ, Netherlands Embassy, NORAD (full time fees for the students), and EDP (farm development infrastructure). The Royal Netherlands Embassy has been requested to assist in completing the NRDC-farm infrastructure. The individual ZEGA members who request the training, have to pay for the on-farm training.

4. National standards and regulations

Mr Ian Landless made an attempt to write national standards in the early nineties. However, these were never officially accepted for there was no economical need. The UK Soil Association and Ecocert have done certification of land and produce and thus the requirements of these certification bodies are currently followed. Producers in Zambia mainly focus on the export market in Europe and therefore the EC regulation EEC 2092/91 for organic production and processing is used. For the local market, no legislation has been developed yet, again because there is no economical interest to do so.

5. Marketing organic fruit and vegetables

Export markets

Two large commercial farms (Agriflora and York Farm) produce the bulk of organic fresh produce (high value fresh vegetables). Out-growers produce bee products and pineapple, which is processed for export by Forest Fruits. Small commercial farms produce herbs, spices and essential oils. All exports are destined for Europe.

6. Prospects for increase in production and exports

Zambia has a lot of virgin arable land. It has a good climate and enough rainfall/water available to be able to grow crops year round. Labour costs are still reasonably low, which is a competitive advantage. The export organic market is growing very fast and as long as the quality and quantity can be assured on a continuous basis it is a potential new market for the Zambian farming sector.


The small-scale farming sector in Zambia is well versed in the use and "abuse" of agro-chemicals since the seventies. Applications are often done by hand with a brush or with old knapsack sprayers thus presenting a real danger to health. Concentrations are often not correctly measured and become a hazard to the environment. Worse of all, the old ways (traditional farming) are quickly forgotten, which could have been a source of information for local organic agricultural methods. This fact makes conversion to organic methods difficult.

The roads in Zambia are in mediocre repair. It is therefore very difficult to compete with surrounding countries. However, there are excellent cold room facilities at the airport. Producing "high-value/low volume/low weight" products (e.g. fresh baby vegetables) to transport by air is the target for the Zambian producer.

Lessons learned

To initiate organic production in a developing country where the commercial growers are already struggling to satisfy their conventional export targets is extremely difficult.

Developing organic agriculture in developing countries needs a commitment of individuals. Usually they are not immediately compensated for their efforts but only in a later stage of development.

Knowledge on improving soil fertility, pest and disease control and getting familiar with international markets have been and still are the major constraints. Good market relations with and knowledge of the organic market place overseas need further development to carry the development of organic movement forward.

Good business relations with the organic market place overseas can trigger the development of organic production. Domestic markets are important to develop good production experience but are currently non-existent. Operators should be working on the development of domestic markets individually until the general public is aware of better quality of organic products.

Commercial enterprises with enough capital to venture into organics are successful if sufficient time is allowed to build up soil fertility and to acquire organic methodologies and knowledge.

Annex I

Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia
Ms Susie Burgess, Technical
P.O. Box 34465, Lusaka,
Tel/Fax: +260-1 265208
[email protected]

African Council of Organic Associations
GREEN FOX Ltd., Ms A. de
Consultancy, scientific research
P.O. Box 30093, Lusaka,
Tel/Fax: +260 1 278830
[email protected]

Agriflora Ltd
Mr Neil Slade, Director
Private Bag CH 43, Lusaka,
Tel. +260-1 220187 or 283688
Fax +260-1 220186
[email protected]

York Farm
Mr John Henderson, Technical
P.O. Box 30829 Lusaka,
Tel: + 260 1 274021/2
Fax: + 260 1 274023
[email protected]

Dr Glenn Humphries/Mr Isaac
P.O. Box 310241 Chelstone,
Lusaka, Zambia
Tel./fax: + 260 1 283324
[email protected]

Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre
Brother Paul Desmarais S.J.
P.O. Box 30652, Lusaka,
Tel. +260 (0)1 233101
[email protected]

Forest Fruits - Zambia
Mr Daniel Ball, Director
P.O. Box 160056 Mwinilunga,
Tel/fax + 260 (0)1 292475
Cell: +260-96 765123
[email protected]

Zambili d’Afrique
P.O. Box 38540, Lusaka,
Tel.: + 260 1 231307/237745
Fax: +260 1 229691
[email protected]



United States Agency for International Development


Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia


Environmental Conservation Association of Zambia


Zambia National Farmers Union


Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries


Agricultural Consultative Forum


Swedish International Development Agency


Norwegian Development Aid


Private Sector Development Programme


International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO

Exchange rate (15 May 2001): 1 US$ = ZK3 285 (Zambian Kwacha) = 0.70 Pound Sterling

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