Impact of the magobbo sugarcane scheme on the livelihoods of smallholder outgrowers in Mazabuka district, Southern Zambia

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Matenga, Chrispin Radoka
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The University of Zambia
The aim of this study was to explore how outgrower schemes in the context of block farming, affects livelihoods of the smallholder sugarcane outgrower communities in Zambia. The study examined the Magobbo smallholder sugarcane outgrower scheme in Mazabuka District, in southern Zambia – a contiguous block of 433 hectares owned by about 99 households – launched in 2008 with substantial grant funding from the European Union. The study employed a sequential mixed-methods design for data collection and analysis conducted in three phases in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively. The research methods included qualitative methods (Phase one) that comprised seven focus group discussions; 14 in-depth key informants interviews and direct observation; a household survey (Phase two) administered to a sample of 105 households; and qualitative methods (Phase three) involving 23 life histories from nine households. The findings show that the sugarcane outgrower model at Magobbo is atypical in that outgrowers play no role in production and farm management as their land has been consolidated into a contiguous single block farm and handed over to a service provider company under a management contract. Evidence show that the institutional arrangements in the outgrower block farming model have created uneven income gains from sugar resulting from a hierarchy of landholding sizes held by participants in the scheme with some groups of outgrowers registering increasing incomes than others. The study also reveals gender and generational differentials in livelihood outcomes with women and young people less likely than men to benefit from the scheme. The scheme precludes any land access in the block farm for production outside the contracted crop and discourages livestock management by smallholders in the area. The outgrower scheme, therefore, spawns a specialised livelihood portfolio centred on one crop – sugarcane – away from a more diversified and resilient combination of crops-livestock livelihood portfolio. Moreover, the findings show that the scheme has also generated some unintended negative social consequences in the area. The new ‘wealth’ coming from the scheme has acted to divide people over family land and provoked political contestation within the community, as some seek to exert control over the scheme, resulting in the breaking down of the extended family system and cohesive community bonds. The overall conclusion of the study is that the outgrower scheme has radical consequences: higher incomes for some – and a seeming success of the outgrower model – but this comes at a cost, as land, livelihoods and social relations are reconfigured. The study, thus, recommends that promoters of smallholder outgrower schemes should encourage the development of institutional arrangements that take a broader view of smallholder livelihoods that goes beyond the narrow income metrics, as well as, maintain the role of smallholders as farmers actively involved in production of contracted crop for genuine improvement of smallholder livelihoods. Keywords: outgrower; contract farming; smallholders; block farming; livelihoods; institutional arrangements; displacement; resettlement; political economy; extended livelihoods framework; IRR; marginalisation; Magobbo; Mazabuka; Zambia
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Sugar cane production--Zambia , Sugarcane--Zambia