The early bird misses the drought and increases yield


Mufulira farmer Stanslous Ngosa at his maize field.

It is probably fair to say many farmers in Zambia are anxiously awaiting the rains following patterns of poor rainfall in the past few years. One farmer has made sure that, when the rain does come, he’ll be ready to make the most of the precious precipitation.

Stanslous Ngosa is a Focus Farmer in Mufulira and, based on advice from Zambia Dairy Transformation Programme (ZDTP) Extension Officer Chrispine Banda and Senior Extension Officer Kelvin Mulusa, has already hired labour to help him till more than two hectares of land for planting. Part of the prepared land will be used to plant maize for silage, as well as sunflower and soya beans – all for the benefit of Mr Ngosa’s four dairy animals.

Mr Banda, who advises and supports more than 120 farmers in Mufulira in the Copperbelt, says Zambia has experienced drought and poor rainfall in the past few years, particularly in Southern and Central Provinces and some areas of the Copperbelt.

He says crops planted earlier or with the first rains stand a greater chance of missing the droughts that can sometimes occur during the rainy season and negatively impact vegetative growth and crop yields.

If droughts do occur, they’ll at least have better yields because most of the field will have already matured.

“Early planting should start with early land preparations at the beginning of September so that in the month of October to – at the latest – the first week of November all the land is ready for planting with the first rains.”

ZDTP Extension Officer Chrispine Banda.

ZDTP Programme Country Manager Tania Thomson says at the start of the ZDTP, it appeared many farmers in the programme’s target areas were waiting until the onset of the rains to start preparing their land.

Others were simply waiting to access seeds and fertiliser from the Zambian Farmer Input Support Programme or donors, which was resulting in many farmers planting late or not at all.

“We never know exactly when the rains are coming but being prepared for them in advance means that farmers have the opportunity for better yields.”

Mr Banda says it’s nice to see changes in behaviour because it means farmers are taking ZDTP advice on board.

He says Mr Ngosa, in particular, likes to practice what he learns.

“When we started working with Mr Ngosa, he had no proper farm structures and didn’t know how to make silage or Dairy 19 on his farm. Now he makes his own fresh and dry stover silage, as well as home-made Dairy 19.” [Dairy 19 is a concentrate feed for dairy cattle that has a crude protein content of 19%. It’s becoming expensive for farmers to buy, so if they are able to make the equivalent at home, it’s good for their pockets.]

Mr Ngosa has also introduced Napier grass to his farm, developed excellent farm structures for sheltering his animals and improved his record keeping.

Mr Banda says working with Mr Ngosa and other farmers from Liteta, Chibombo, Bamakasi, Fisenge, Kwanshama and Mufulira has been “a very interesting and encouraging journey” – and it’s not over yet.

Stanlous and his wife Faides.

The five-year ZDTP is being implemented by Prime Consulting International Ltd in partnership with NIRAS International Consulting. Both partners hope the results of the programme will eventually help inform improved dairy practices throughout the whole country.

Get in touch

For further information on the ZDTP, please contact:
Programme Country Manager Tania Thomson on or +260 96 456 4206.