HealthyFoodAfrica project’s Lusaka Food System Lab aims to strengthen the vegetable value chain for Lusaka to contribute towards building resilient food systems. The project organized a workshop bringing farmers and traders to together to identify the opportunities, challenges and policy issues that need to be addressed to create an efficient vegetable value chain for the common vegetables that they grow and trade in.
Combining farmers and traders also provided an opportunity for direct linkage between them to exchange contacts and provide useful information for each other on what is trending and prevailing prices. It also minimizes the use of middlemen who frequently hike prices disadvantaging both the farmers and consumers in the process.
Participants had a practical exercise identifying different types of markets that they can participate in along the value chain especially formal markets and food processing markets. They got to know about the different requirements for the formal markets and possible profits on different crops. Various traditional vegetables like chibwabwa (pumpkin leaves), bondwe (amaranths), okra, mushrooms, katapa (cassava leaves) etc. were identified as vegetables for which value chains needs to be developed further once preserved, processed and packaged better.
The workshop also discussed the challenges associated growing high value exotic vegetables and fruits such as cauliflower, garlic, celery etc. given that they fetch more profits compared to traditional vegetables. The following were the advanced reasons prohibiting farmers and traders in growing and selling high value exotic vegetables:
- Seeds for high value vegetables are expensive
- The quantity of seeds for high value vegetables is little compared to local common vegetables hence the failure rate for germination is higher for high value vegetables. Therefore, to prevent possible loss they would rather concentrate on growing and selling common vegetables.
- The demand for exotic vegetables in common markets is little or absent and therefore it determines the farmers and traders willingness to sell the produce.
- For farmers, most of their vegetables are now organically grown and quite a number of exotic vegetables are not responsive or are too sensitive to some natural ways of pest control.
- There is generally little knowledge and capacity among farmers to grow exotic vegetables.
Before the workshop concluded, participants were split in groups to create a value chain mapping for specific common vegetables in Lusaka and Chongwe i. e. tomato, okra, cabbage and rape. They were also taught on how to make assessments of possible new opportunities: evaluating market demand, marketing strategies to use, and exploring market options for value added products. They further did SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats) analysis and PEST (Political, Environmental, Social and Technology) analysis on the vegetable products chosen to see how best to be prepared for external conditions affecting their decisions to invest or not invest in particular vegetables.