Upskilling smallholders remains a good recipe for sustainability | Land Portal
Author(s): 
Staff reporter
Language of the news reported: 
English

For 75 year-old avocado farmer Godson Kalolo technical assistance has been the key to growing from a smallholder into an entrepreneur, harvesting 18 tonnes of avocado and delivering to a major supermarket chain.

Godson Kalolo (aged 75) is an avocado farmer producing the Hass Avocado variety in the  Chongwe district of Zambia. He owns a six acres farm, located in the Kasenga/Kasisi area, 18Km east of Kenneth Kaunda International Airport. When Mr. Kalolo joined our fruit and vegetables programme, technical advisors conducted a full assessment and identified the following key challenges that were affecting his farms’ profitability and sustainability:

  • inadequate agronomic knowledge for avocado production; 
  • inadequate skills in pest and disease management and post-harvest technology;
  • Furthermore, Mr. Kalolo had no linkage to a stable market;
  • nor knowledge on the selection and packaging of avocado for the desired markets and his farm management skills needed improvement. 

But while the challenges were significant, they were far outweighed by the opportunities that came with turning around Mr. Kalolo’s farm for himself and the avocado-growing community in Chongwe. The key winning ingredient is Mr. Kalolo’s own commitment.

After the assessment, we drew up an intervention plan. His roadmap to sustainability hinged on three pillars: 

  1. upskilling of Mr Kalolo’s agronomic knowledge and practices (these include disease management, post-harvest technology, food handling and packaging);
  2. upgrade of his farm infrastructure and more  efficient use of natural water;
  3. Improving market intelligence and market access for his avocados. 

Five years later, Mr. Kalolo is astounded by the results, and in his own words attests. 

The biggest reward in this entire process has been the acquired knowledge that can’t be taken away from me. Being taught is one thing, but having someone by your side who is patient in showing you how to practically apply the knowledge through on-farm demonstration has been a great confidence booster. I wish I had gotten this kind of support in my earlier years of starting this farm, I would’ve grown so much further!!! It is for this reason that I have brought in my son on the team so that he too can get the necessary skills that can help sustain the business ”. 

One of the skills that brought him great progress is propagating avocado seedlings. Now, he sells about 12,000 avocado seedlings at an average price of $5 each per year and about 6000 avocado scions per month at $1 per scion. The nursery business has proven to be a great income stream that he didn’t have prior to joining the Solidaridad Fruit & Vegetables Programme.

In 2021, Mr Kalolo managed to sell 12 tonnes of avocado fruits at a farm gate price of $0.30 per fruit, with an average weight of 250g per fruit. This year 2022, his harvest rose to 18 tonnes of avocado. Unfortunately, the farm gate price dropped to $0.19 per fruit, with an average weight of 300g per fruit. But he now has a sustainable market linkage in the form of Freshmark, which is a fresh produce procurement and distribution arm that supplies Shoprite Group of outlets.

For sustainability purposes, the programme established an avocado cluster to create a stronger appeal for market linkages. The hectarage of these farmers increased from the initial 2 hectares to 200 hectares, this also helps in the increased sale of seedlings and scion by the group formation. An avocado demonstration plot was also set up to showcase good agricultural practices in avocado production. This plot plays an important role in scaling up the adoption and production of avocado crop in the fruit and vegetable clusters in Chongwe and other project areas. It creates an environment of deep agronomic understanding within the community and collective growth. Mr Kalolo was elected chairman of the cluster. His improvements even resulted in national visibility. “My farm was profiled in the national newspaper. That came with a lot of recognition. Now i get to use that recognition to get attention for the challenges that affect not just me, but the cluster as a whole” said Mr Kalolo.

 

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