We are pleased to share with you this discussion paper, co-published by the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and the Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB).

In Zambia, as in many other African countries, decisions related to food production and consumption increasingly lie outside the control of those responsible and accountable for food and nutrition security at both household and national level.

Farmer support is almost entirely directed at subsidising smallholder uptake of Green Revolution (GR) technologies, which is based on the flawed claim that if farmers can access finance and commercial inputs they have an opportunity to break the cycle of rural poverty. Thus, they are supported to produce monoculture commodity crops to sell for cash, in order to be able to purchase food from the commercial retail sector. The result is reduced, rather than increased, local farmer and consumer agency, and their collective power and sovereignty over food and farming choices.

And, in the long run, GR technologies externalise the real costs of production, which is borne instead by the environment, by the public health system coping with chronic widespread malnourishment and non-communicable diseases, and by future generations forced off the land: often into urban slums, unskilled, hungry and unable to live fully functional lives. This is coupled with the dislocation caused by climate change – driven in itself by GR and the industrial trade-orientated global food system.

This discussion paper provides an overview of the well-documented policy and development challenges related to farmer support in Zambia and then focuses on some of the more systemic and cross-cutting issues that are of growing concern. It can serve as a foundational working document for a broader Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) project and will be used as a basis for further dialogue within ZAAB and in wider engagements with the multiple stakeholders involved in crafting a more equitable food system in Zambia.

Farmer support needs to be reconceptualised to encompass systematic long term enabling of smallholder farming systems in their entirety – aimed at building local resilience rather than undermining it. This is a foundational principle of farmer and peasant organisations around the world in their calls for systematic support to agroecology and the fulfilment of people’s demands for food sovereignty.