By Ann Steensland, Deputy Director, and Margaret Zeigler, Executive Director, Global Harvest Initiative
The city of Livingstone, Zambia, is best known as the home of Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. More than 2 million people visit the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site each year, making tourism the largest industry in Livingstone and the main source of income for many of its 140,000 residents.
This presents an extraordinary market opportunity for the smallholder producers who live near Victoria Falls.
Small-scale farmers in the Livingstone area are cultivating seedlings and growing produce that is being consumed by thousands of tourists staying at Livingstone’s high-end hotels, thanks to the advisory services received through the Horticulture Innovation Lab, a USAID-funded initiative that is bringing together partners to increase smallholder horticulture production and connect farmers to markets in urban centers throughout Africa. The Livingstone project is the result of a partnership between Rutgers, Purdue, and Stellenbosch Universities, and Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plan Products (ASNAPP).
Program participants receive training in the entire horticultural value chain, from seedling production to cultivation and post-harvest handling and commercialization. The project begins with the development and cultivation of high-quality seedling varieties. In the village of Kazuni, community members received training in the construction and use of high tunnels for seedling production.
By 2014, more than 2 million seedlings had been produced for red and yellow peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, eggplants, melons, spinach, and cabbage. The seedlings are sold to local farmers, and thanks to Livingstone’s international airport and major road and rail connections to Lusaka, seedlings produced in Livingstone have been sold to producers as far away as Nairobi.
Locally grown seedlings are purchased by neighboring communities where grower co-ops, such as the Nsongwe Women’s Horticulture Project, grow peppers, broccoli, cabbage, and some indigenous vegetables which are purchased by the luxury hotels and lodges in Livingstone.
Special considerations are made in the Horticulture Innovation Lab programs to incorporate a gender focus. In Livingstone, specially developed seedlings and a solar powered drip irrigation system enable women to grow their produce during the off-season. As a result, they are not competing with larger-scale producers and can charge a premium price for products that hotels and restaurants need year-round.
In the project’s first five years, more than 100 metric tons of vegetables valued at $170,000 were sold, primarily to the local hospitality industry. When Ann Steensland of Global Harvest Initiative visited the Nsongwe project in February 2016, the women reported that they now incorporate more vegetables into family meals and as a result, they and their children were much healthier. A project evaluation in 2015 confirmed that food security and dietary diversity have increased in the participating communities. Increased income is being used for medical treatment, school fees, and to build or expand homes.
The Chicago Council’s Growing Food for Growing Cities series points out that the majority of urbanization actually occurs in small and midsize cities, like Livingstone. As the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s work in Zambia demonstrates, these rural and urban areas are deeply intertwined, creating market opportunities for smallholder farmers.
For more information about innovative policies, programs, and practices that foster agricultural productivity in Zambia and the United States, see the Global Harvest Initiative’s 2016 Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®), Building Sustainable Breadbaskets.