The study “Green Innovation Centre in Zambia: Fighting Hunger through Corporate Supply Chains?” is a joint publication by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and African Centre for Biodiversity.

It discusses the Green Innovation Centre (GIC) project of the German government, its approach and its impact. The development concept behind the GIC is farming as a business, focusing on integrating smallholder farmers into commercial value chains. GIZ, the German development agency coordinates the project in Zambia. The GIC’s main interventions in Zambia are on groundnut and soya in the Eastern Province in partnership with COMACO on smallholder integration into value chains and Good Nature Agro on improved seed, and on smallholder integration in the dairy sector in Southern Province with SNV, a Dutch NGO.

GIC is one of a number of Green Revolution interventions in Zambia. It combines a fairly standard Green Revolution approach with the adoption of some agronomic practices (such as use of fertiliser trees, conservation agriculture and production of legume seed that can be reused) that recognise the importance of ecological approaches. However, the interventions remain closely allied with corporations and their private interests. Interventions are made in sectors and regions where a few transnational corporations dominate the sector and search for cheap commodities from farmers (Parmalat, Cargill, NWK Agri-services).

GIC follows the general development trajectory of creating or working with cooperatives in an “instrumentalist” way to serve a development project purpose, rather than as critical and independent farmer organisations. Extension services are privatised and provided to an exclusive group. Public sector institutions such as the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI) are side-lined and replaced by hybrid, for-profit private enterprise-NGOs. GIC’s indicators relate to corporate business success (e.g. increases in downstream employment).

The value chain approach as implemented in the GIC project ignores informal market channels, favouring bulk commodity exports of standardised products. The GIC interventions focus on a small number of smallholder farmers and provide them with exclusive access to finance, services and support. The aim is to identify and provide further support to those who can emerge as full commercial farmers (“stepping up”), while the majority of farmers are left out. Overall, although the intervention makes a shift towards some more ecological practices, it remains within a model that favours wealth extraction from smallholder farmers.