Why some farmers are more productive than others: the case of smallholder farmers in Zambia

By Brian Chisanga and Antony Chapoto

Attaining high productivity has for a long time eluded Zambia’s smallholder-led agriculture. For example, average yield for maize-the dominant crop among smallholders- in the last decade has been stagnant at about 2 tons per hectare against the potential of 6-10 tons per hectare. Yields for most of the other crops have also remained low, and in many cases are in decline. Notwithstanding the above, some smallholder farmers in Zambia achieve high crop productivity. Within the broader category of smallholder farmers in Zambia, there exists some farmers who have succeeded in becoming the top-tier commercial growers. These farmers form the critical mass with potential to drive the transformation of agricultural production by raising overall farm productivity and agricultural commercialization. This
study, therefore, sought to examine the differences in smallholder farm productivity in Zambia. In particular the first objectives was to identify the most productive farmers while the second was to examine the characteristics that make these farmers more productive than others.

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