Jun 25, 2015 - Update

Interrupting the Cycle of Hunger in Zambia

Post - IPA Blog

By Rachel Levenson

“[….]Professors Gunther Fink, Kelsey Jack and Felix Masiye have worked on numerous nutrition, health, and environmental projects in Eastern Zambia. As they spent time talking to the rural poor during these projects, they heard one story over and over again. The farmers were struggling to make their harvest last the full year: they were running out of food months before the next maize crop (the staple food in Zambia) ripened. These months leading up to the harvest are known in Zambia and elsewhere in the developing world as the “hungry season.” Farmers in Zambia explained that they made ends meet during the hungry season by doing casual labor on other farms to get food. The time spent doing casual labor made it impossible to invest the time and energy needed on their own plots and their harvest suffered, creating a vicious cycle.

Listening to this story, Professors Fink, Jack and Masiye saw a textbook poverty trap caused by seasonality and a simple solution. If it was true that people’s harvest suffered because they had to work off their farm during some of the most important and labor intensive agricultural months then they could help farmers smooth their income and consumption over the year by offering maize during the leanest months as a loan, and asking farmers to repay after the harvest, when maize and cash are relatively plentiful…”