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Zambia, Chanyanya Irrigation Pilot

Working with smallholder farmers to pioneer a co-operative irrigation scheme; improving yields and livelihoods in rural Zambia

Chanyanya

Context

Zambia’s agricultural sector is dominated by smallhold farming. Smallhold farmers are vulnerable to fluctuating rainfall and many rural communities require access to food aid. The Government of Zambia has identified access to irrigation as a priority for maximising agricultural productivity. Irrigated commercial farms can diversify crops, extend growing seasons and maximise yields. However, the scale of land held by individual smallholds (2-10ha) means that irrigation technology and mechanised farming methods are not economically viable.

Project

In the village of Chanyanya, 45km from the capital Lusaka, 126 smallhold farmers and four commercial farmers formed a cooperative to harness the irrigation potential of the Kafue River. Having secured water extraction rights, they approached InfraCo Africa, through its principal developer eleQtra, to develop a viable irrigation scheme. The project design involved pooling members’ land to create an irrigated commercial farm and a pilot project was undertaken as a ‘proof-of-concept.’ The pilot established the Chanyanya Smallholders Cooperative Society (CSCS), pooling members’ land to form a 148ha farm with four irrigation pivots and water extraction infrastructure. The farm grows wheat, barley and soya, training local employees in advanced farming methods. In addition to receiving rent and dividends from the farm, each member has access to an irrigated market garden land, enabling them to grow vegetables for sale or domestic consumption.

Impact

‘It (Chanyanya project) is something that will bring returns, not just now but for generations to come.’ Joseph Mushalika, Chairman, Chanyanya Smallholders Cooperative Society

The Chanyanya project provides reliable access to water for commercial crops, driving the profitability of the commercial farm and delivering returns for smallhold farmers. Once loans to the project are repaid, CSCS members will own the farm, irrigation technology and machinery outright. To expand CSCS governance capacity, the project employs a Social Development Officer. Cooperative members now derive increased income, food security and improved nutrition from their market garden plots. An agronomist trains smallhold farmers in new methods to maximise yields. The wider Chiansi project will roll out the model to three neighbouring communities, pooling the land of 600 smallholders and commercial farmers to irrigate 1,575ha of farmland. The model has considerable scope for replication. Lessons learnt from Chanyanya are informing the World Bank’s Ghanaian and Zambian irrigation programmes.