EASTERN Province has overtaken Western Province in poverty levels, now reaching a record high of 84.3 per cent, according to the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute.
And maize constitutes nearly 90 per cent of all crops Zambians still grow at household level.
According to the IAPRI Rural Agricultural Livelihoods Survey (RALS) 2015 report, Eastern Province has surpassed Western Province as the highest poverty-stricken area of the country, now standing at 84.3 per cent against 83.3 per cent recorded for Western Province.
Zambia’s poverty levels, as reported by IAPRI, are based on the international poverty line of per capita of US$1.25 per day, used by the World Bank.
“Zambia has made little progress in reducing poverty, particularly in rural areas despite the increasing economic growth that the country has experienced in the past decade. The 2015 national poverty rates based on RALS 2015 have marginally increased by only two per cent compared to 2012 poverty rates. In both survey years, poverty rates in Eastern Province have remained above 80 per cent overtaking Western Province, which had the highest poverty incidence in 2012,” IAPRI stated.
According to the findings, Eastern Province’s poverty levels increased from 80.6 per cent in 2012 to 84.3 per cent in 2015, while poverty levels in Western Province dropped from 85.1 per cent in 2012 to 83.3 per cent in 2015.
IAPRI stated that although the survey found the national poverty rates to have increased, some provinces registered declines since the last RALS survey was conducted in 2012.
“However, the estimated poverty rates are shown to have declined by one per cent to seven per cent in some provinces. For example, in Copperbelt (-7.7 per cent), Central (-6.5 per cent), Lusaka (1.7 per cent), North-Western (-2.1 per cent), while marginally declining in Southern Province,” it stated.
“In the remaining provinces, poverty rates have gone up, with the Northern Province recording the highest increase of 13.0 per cent followed by Muchinga, Luapula and Eastern provinces with +8.3 per cent, +7.2 per cent and +3.7 per cent respectively. These findings will require additional analysis to further understand the underlying causes behind the changes in poverty rates by province.”
And the research think tank also found that maize still ranks above all other crops grown in the country, with 89.4 per cent of the crop grown.
“The majority of households in Zambia grow maize, with a national average of 89.4 per cent. Nationally, groundnuts have the second most number of households growing the crop, followed by cassava, mixed beans and then sweet potatoes,” stated IAPRI.
The RALS is a new panel survey designed to obtain a comprehensive picture of Zambia’s small and medium-scale farming sector using the 2010 census sampling frame whose purpose is to provide relevant policy information that is not practical to collect annually from the government agricultural surveys.
The government has been calling for diversification of agricultural production, but implementation has always been a challenge.
At the moment, the Japanese government, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency, is spearheading a diversification project that wants to upscale rice production in the country.