Access to Fertilizer Support Programme in Nakonde, Zambia from 2002 t0 2006: A gender Perspective
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The Zambian government through the fertilizer support programme (FSP) aimed at reducing poverty among small-scale farmers. The programme was introduced in 2002 with an initial 50% subsidy later increased to 60% by 2007 and during 2008-2009 farming season it was at 75%. The study aimed at determining the extent to which the government fertilizer support programme has benefited small-scale farmer in Nakonde District. The main objective was to determine factors affecting small-scale farmers' access to and control over inputs from FSP. The four specific objectives were: to assess the proportion of FSP beneficiaries by sex; to establish small-scale farmers income levels effect on access and control over inputs from FSP; to examine the extent to which policy guidelines on FSP contributed to small-scale farmer's access to and control over inputs from FSP; and to assess how knowledge about the programme affected women's access to inputs from FSP. Primary data were collected using in-depth interviews and focus group discussions whereas secondary data were obtained by reviewing registers from cooperatives and agricultural offices. The descriptive design was used for the purpose of understanding socio-cultural process such as social construct of femininity; the perception of the nature of women in the study area; and power relation in the family and in the public sphere and the underlying assumptions that explain them. The design helped in understanding factors that limit female small-scale farmers' access to and control over inputs from FSP. The findings showed that women's access to inputs from FSP was lower than that of men. Similarly women's control over Agricultural resources such as inputs from FSP and land was less. Traditional patriarchal values and cultural beliefs of the local people cited above favoured men than women. Traditional patriarchal values influenced married women's access to and control over inputs from FSP negatively but favoured unmarried women. In addition the WID approach the programme adopted to integrate women in patriarchal structures affected women access negatively because cooperatives accepted heads of households, traditionally expected to be men. The other aspect that effected women's access negatively was government failure to give guidelines to both agricultural and cooperatives officials on the implementation of the programme. Lack of guidelines resulted in Agricultural and Cooperative officials using methods that suited their situation, and cooperatives using different methods to implement the FSP. There were also disparities in the level of income control between women and men. Women's low levels of control especially married women, was caused by factors such as; long distances to the market; bureaucratic procedures during the sale of maize to FRA; and low levels of formal education. Women were preferred to keep the savings from the sale of agricultural produce. However, the majority of men allowed their spouses to keep revenue for buying inputs for the next season and not surplus returns. In order to improve women's access and control over inputs from FSP, the study recommends that: Firstly, bureaucratic procedures in the form of registration during sharing and distribution of inputs and the sale of maize and, payments for the maize sold to FRA should be removed. Secondly, the government of Zambia should give policy guidelines that will compel District Agriculture officers and Cooperatives to choose equal numbers of female and male beneficiaries to increase women participation. Gender and women issues should be incorporate in the programme as a way of promoting gender mainstreaming in cooperative by the government.