Labor requirements and profitability of alternative soil fertility management options in Zambia uri icon


  • Low soil fertility is a major concern in agricultural productivity and development policy discourse in sub-saharan Africa. The probl em is exacerbated by government withdrawal from fertilizer input markets and the inability of private sector operators to fill the gap. This warranted a search for other nutrient sources to supplement ch emical fertilizers. Based on field data collected in Zambia, this study assessed the labor inputs implications of â??improved tree fallowsâ?�, continuous maize cropping with and without mineral fertilizer and, evaluated the financial profita bility of the different land use systems. Results show that agroforestry-based land us e systems are more pr ofitable (NPV between $233 and $309 per ha) than farmersâ?? practi ce of continuous maize production without external fertilization ($130/ha) but, they are less profitable than mi neral fertilizer ($499). When the effects of the 50% government s ubsidy on fertilizers are considered, the differences in the profitability of fertilizers over improved tree fallows falls from 61% to 13%. The returns per person labor-day is $3.20 for fertilizer and $2.50, $2.40, and $1.90 respectively, for the three ag roforestry options evaluated and only $1.10 for unfertilized maize. These returns compare with a daily agricultural wage of $0.50 in the study area. Key determinants of financial attractivene ss and by extension, potential adoptability of the land use systems were identified. Given the low rate (20%) of farmers in Zambia who have access to fertilizers, there is a large nich e to integrate other soil nutrient replenishing options with fertilizer to improve food s ecurity and reduce povert y among resource-poor smallholder farmers in Africa

publication date

  • 2007