The Rise of Soya in Zambia and the Integration of Smallholder Farmers

After six decades of policy experimentation, and efforts to promote economic diversification and reduce the country’s overreliance on copper mining, Zambia has failed to fully capitalise on the country’s agricultural potential. Endowed with agricultural land which accounts for 32% of the 75 million hectares of total land area, the landlocked country also boasts abundant water resources and favourable agroclimatic conditions. While the significance of smallholder agriculture for food production and rural livelihoods has been consistently emphasised in Zambia’s agricultural policies since independence, the narrative of resource abundance in policy thinking has equally maintained an agricultural-growth outlook which gives priority to large-scale commercial farming. This policy approach, along with global concerns about dwindling resources in the face of population growth and a growing demand for food and energy, has established renewed investor interest in Zambia’s food and agriculture sectors. Analysis of the soybean value chain in Zambia reveals that the participation of smallholder farmers presents complex outcomes that often disadvantage farmers. The main benefit of soybean production among smallholder farmers is in the form of cash income. The rise of soybean as the major cash crop for smallholder farmers and input-induced agricultural intensification has led to the restructuring of the agro-food systems on which rural people depend.