Pulse varieties in a Zambian market

Our Vision: Help alleviate poverty and improve nutrition through research, education and engagement

Despite its rich agricultural resources, Zambia has chronic food and nutrition security problems. Several factors contribute to these issues, such as inefficient policies and inadequate human resources in agriculture and food sectors. In addition, the nation is facing increasingly intense, frequent and lengthy droughts and floods.

Drought-tolerant pulse crops like beans and cowpeas help enhance food security.

To enhance food and nutrition security and increase producer incomes, we seek to understand the pulse industry's supply chains, costs and benefits, transportation costs and influencing policies. Our research will help stakeholders make better decisions and lawmakers create better policies.

Zambian woman at the market

Research Problem
From 1998 to 2008, pulse production in Zambia steadily increased by about 5.6 to 6 percent annually, but yield remained vritually flat. While the crop is produced in all nine Zambian provinces, pulse crops' shares of total allocated area and market value are relatively small. For example, pulses' market value in 2008 was about $5.2 million, which is only 3.4 percent of corn's market value.

Despite the low market value, it is estimated that 10 percent of Zambian households grow pulses, compared with 39 percent for corn and 4 percent for sorghum. While produced in all Zambian provinces, the top four bean and cowpea producing provinces account for 83 percent of the total output. We believe these data emphasize the strategic importance of improving knowledge about the pulse industry's value chain and influencing factors.

Very little credible information is available on the flow of pulses through the supply chain and the crops' value at each stage. Pulses are traded regionally, but it is unknown how much and at which stage export occurs. We also know very little about the roles of producers and other stakeholders in the supply chain.

Filling in these gaps of knowledge will help answer the following questions:

  • What are the effects of infrastructure constraints and policy gaps on producer incomes and food and nutrition security?
  • Which factors influence investments in bean and cowpea prdocution, processing, handling, distribution and trading systems? How do they influence?
  • What human resource capacity and capability is needed to achieve the industry's objectives?