With more than 2 million visitors per year, Victoria Falls World Heritage Site and luxury hotels near Livingstone, Zambia, offer an extraordinary market opportunity for local farmers — one that was highlighted recently by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs blog.
This guest commentary written by Ann Steensland and Margaret Zeigler (of Global Harvest Initiative) focuses on the market-driven approach of Horticulture Innovation Lab partners who are supporting small-scale farmers near Livingstone with training and technologies at multiple points along the horticultural value chain.
The post is about a series of Horticulture Innovation Lab projects that are ongoing in Zambia, with leadership from James Simon of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. The current project is focused on “Improving nutrition with African indigenous vegetables” and includes partners from Purdue University, AgriSmart Zambia, the University of Zambia, and the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC).
One of the blog writers, Ann Steensland, visited farmers in Kizuni village who were trained by this team and now grow high-value vegetable seedlings in high tunnels. Among their seedling customers are the nearby Nsongwe Women’s group, also participants in the project, who in turn grow vegetables year-round to sell to Livingstone’s hotels.
In June, representatives from each of the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s current projects gathered in Lusaka, Zambia, for the program’s annual meeting. The three-day meeting started with a workday, then grew into a local conference, and ended with a tour of local agriculture.
Workday for current partners
The first day of the three-day meeting was focused on learning about the program’s new portfolio of projects and finding possible synergies between them. Beth Mitcham, director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab, discussed the broad goals of the projects new phase, and John Bowman of USAID updated the group about changes at the Bureau of Food Security, including upcoming changes to scientific peer review policies and sub-award processes.
Principal investigators from each of the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s six current projects and two Regional Centers shared posters and discussion with rotating small groups. Later, the teams networked to discuss ways they could work together and exchange expertise.
African indigenous vegetables and women who grow them in Zambia are the subject of two videos made by a team from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
As a student with the Rutgers Center for Digital Filmmaking, Jeanpaul Isaacs visited Livingstone to meet the Nsongwe Women’s Group. These women are growing vegetables with support from the Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP) organization and Rutgers Professor Jim Simon.
The Horticulture Innovation Lab has worked with Simon, ASNAPP, and a team of international partners on improving the value chain for African indigenous vegetables in Zambia and Kenya. We are currently working with this team to develop a project focused on how growing and selling these vegetables can impact farmer nutrition, as related to household consumption and dietary diversity (announcement).