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Published on 28 July 2021

Supporting Women farmers in Zambia

For many years, Doreen Musumpuka has been a subsistence farmer in Nangoma village in the Mumbwa District in Zambia. Doreen is not unusual. Most farmers and enterprises in rural areas of Zambia tend to be small scale, unstructured and homebased with little opportunity for growth. Women farmers often feel disempowered and unable to have influence over their working lives. But now, at the age of 60, Doreen is learning to farm for more than her daily needs.

Christian Aid has been working with Norwegian Church Aid and a local organisation, Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ), to improve the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable farmers like Doreen. The project has focussed on four project sites in Central Zambia: Mumbwa, Chisamba, Kabwe and Kapiri Mposhi.

Image credits and information i
MAB project Lead Farmer, Nangoma in her field showing her tomato harvest.
MAB project Lead Farmer, Nangoma in her field showing her tomato harvest.
Doreen Musumpuka showing her tomato harvest. Image: Caroline Nenguke/ Norwegian Church Aid

Making Agriculture a Business

Thanks to support from this programme, Doreen has turned her subsistence farming into a business. She is growing okra, tomatoes, and cucumbers, earning an income from them, and improving food variety and nutrition at the household level.

Doreen is one of almost 4000 farmers across 4 districts who received specialist agricultural training. The training included understanding how a solar drip irrigation system can make a little water go a long way. Where they previously used 300 litres of water to water a bed measuring 15m2, they now only use 60 litres.

Since the start of the project, each of the four centres have grown 2,500 tomato plants and 2,500 heads of cabbage from the nursery to the marketplace.

We have established a relationship with the manufacturer of the drip kits so that our farmers can continue to buy the kits locally at a competitive price.

Example of the drip irrigation system.
Example of the drip irrigation system. Image: Caroline Nenguke/ Norwegian Church Aid

Savings and loans

Almost two thousand farmers were also taught how to invest even the smallest amounts of money wisely through micro-investing.

Doreen became involved in a village savings scheme with her neighbours. The savings and interest pay for her grandchild to go to school. She has also been able to improve the sanitation for her household. She says, “Because of the savings groups we have built a hygienic and flushable toilet, complete with a soakaway and tiles.”

Ruth has also joined the Making Agriculture a Business programme. Ruth lives with her three sons and her mobility issues means that she needs to use crutches to move around. But her involvement with the programme has meant that she no longer relies on handouts to feed her family. Ruth sold three chickens and worked as a seamstress in order to join joined the local savings group. When the group, Chayankwa Women’s Club, shared out their assets after a year, she had made a profit of over 100%.

Ruth has also learned a lot from the training she has received in making farming a business. She and her neighbours are setting up community crop beds and have received goats which will be bred and shared amongst the group members.

Ruth says, “I am happy to play an active role in the group. One day, I will be a proud owner of a garden portion to grow vegetables and other crops for sale and also the owner of a goat that I can raise to multiply so I can have an income from selling the goats when I have many.

Improving access to markets

The Making Agriculture a Business programme is also supporting women and vulnerable farmers to sell their produce at market for a profit. Over the course of four years, over three thousand farmers have successfully marketed their produce.

A wholesaler has committed to purchase the produce from our farmers, ensuring that they receive a competitive price for their labour.  

Marketplaces in Zambia are not always designed with women in mind. This Scottish Government-funded programme helped to create a healthier and safer trading environment by building a toilet block at a highway market. The market is now a more attractive place to stop for those travelling north and south. Footfall and sales have increased since the modernisation.

The project in figures

50 young people completed vocational training in agriculture, nutrition, plumbing and sheet metal work.

546 farmers invested in drip irrigation systems

2184 farmers got involved in savings and loans groups

3682 farmers received agricultural training

3536 (88%) of the 4000 women and marginalised people who were encouraged to join the programme are living healthier lives with better nutrition, access to health services and savings.

Scottish churches contribution

Since 2018, churches in Scotland have raised £12,000 to support the work in Zambia.

These generous donations from supporting congregations are being used to complement the Scottish Government-funded work. As this project comes to a close, the gifts from supporters will ensure that the farmers’ co-operatives continue to thrive. Gifts from supporters will be invested in priorities such as livestock, more diverse crops, organic fertiliser or better varieties of seed. We hope that the fields in Central Zambia are ripe with harvest for many years to come.

If your church would like to support vulnerable farmers in Zambia to thrive, please contact Charlie Meiklejohn by email:

Making Agriculture a Business is funded by the Scottish Government and implemented by Christian Aid, in partnership with Norwegian Church Aid and Churches Health Association Zambia.