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Women Overcome Drought with Crop Diversification

Women Overcome Drought with Diversification

This women’s group in Zambia is diversifying their crop production to earn more, even during droughts.

Southern Zambia is facing some of the most prolonged droughts in decades with rainfall in some areas reaching record lows. For families that rely solely on income from a crop that requires high amounts of water, like maize, these conditions can be devastating. In fact, Zambia’s maize harvest dropped by 17 percent to an estimated 2 million metric tons this year, the lowest harvest in a decade.

Women are particularly impacted as they make up a majority of the agricultural workforce in Zambia.

Photo of female agricultural workersPhoto by USADF

Through the U.S. African Development Foundation, a key Feed the Future partner, members of the Monze District Women Association (DWA), located in Zambia’s Southern Province, are gaining access to resources and training that teaches them how to diversify their income. Two years ago, the farmers of Monze DWA began expanding the diversity of crops they produced from maize to sunflower, given its revenue potential.

According to Monze DWA, 60 percent of its members were affected by drought in 2018, which caused a majority of their maize crop to fail. However, sunflower, which is less sensitive to drought and requires less water, fared much better. So much so that, despite the drought, the group increased its revenues by more than 80 percent.

“Before, we never considered sunflower [as] a crop we could get cash from,” one of the Monze women said. “Now, it’s one of the crops we plant to earn our living.”

Two years into the program, members were not only selling their crops, but they also processed more than 100 tons of sunflower into oil to sell — a nearly seven-fold increase from their first year in the program when they processed 15 tons of sunflower. The women are using their increase in incomes to make improvements to their homes and pay their children’s school fees.

Photo of a group of women
Photo by USADF

“Through this project, we are empowered to run a business,” a Monze DWA leader said. “Now we are helping our families with the money we earn.”

Word is spreading throughout the district, and its success is leading more women to join the association. Monze DWA has grown from 1,000 members to 2,300, reaching more women in the area with the resources and knowledge they need to diversify their crops to earn a better income, even amid drought.

Through Feed the Future, the U.S. African Development Foundation addresses, at the grassroots level, the causes of hunger and food insecurity.

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