For decades, Zambia has pursued policies aimed at achieving national maize self-sufficiency, primarily driven by huge public investments in maize input and output subsidies. Maize and fertilizer issues dominate the agricultural policy arena in Zambia with limited investment in key agricultural growth drivers such as research and development, extension, feeder roads, and appropriate irrigation infrastructure. Adoption of improved agricultural technologies among smallholder households has also remained low. The lack of agricultural diversification, limited use of improved technologies and low agricultural productivity is worrying and requires urgent attention. Under this thematic research area, two key issues stand out - public expenditure and policy, and technology and smallholder productivity.
Under this thematic area, research on public expenditure and policy will focus on the re-alignment of government expenditure away from input and output subsidies, monitoring and evaluation of alternative public investments such as investment in farm blocks, irrigation development, and social protection and promotion programmes.
Research on technology and smallholder productivity will focus on impacts of technology adoption (e.g., conservation agriculture and mechanization), agricultural and income diversification, land tenure and markets, extension, and rural finance among others. The research outputs from this thematic area will result in increased empirical evidence that can be used to guide policy change that will ultimately enhance agricultural productivity and diversification.