A child eats a nutritious meal in Africa. Photo by Michael Stulman/CRS

Feed the Future Zambia Mawa Project

Feed the Future Mawa Project supports smallholder farmer households to intensify and diversify agricultural production for improved health and nutrition and engagement with markets.


Official name of project: Feed the Future Zambia Mawa Project

Project years: 2012-2017

Country: Zambia

Value of project: $9.6 million

Names of donors and partners: Donor: USAID Zambia (Feed the Future and PEPFAR); Partners: Caritas Chipata, Women for Change, Golden Valley Agricultural Research Trust and University Research Company, LLC


Mawa’s interventions are designed to ease 20,000 very vulnerable smallholder farmers, particularly women, toward improved food and economic security. Mawa provides skills to smallholder farmers to adopt improved technologies and practices for diversified and intensified production. Mawa facilitates development of skills to experiment with new technologies, which prepare farmers for engagement with markets. The project also provides nutrition assessment, counseling and support for households with children under two.


Mawa operates in 19 agricultural camps in Chipata and Lundazi districts. It responds to the drivers of food insecurity among smallholder households in Eastern Province, Zambia: poor agricultural growth and high under-nutrition rates, which are compounded by gender inequities.

Agricultural growth is limited by diminishing productivity, insufficient access to financial services and poor engagement with markets. Unsustainable production practices, limited land availability and high input costs combine to limit agricultural productivity. Maize is the most important staple crop in Zambia. Despite dedicating half of the cultivated land to maize, yields for smallholder households remain low. Smallholders lack the agricultural inputs needed to maintain and increase production. Limited knowledge of improved production practices leads farmers to adopt unsustainable practices that degrade natural resources, further limiting production potential of scarce land.

Smallholder farmers’ capacity for agricultural production and market engagement is compounded by limited access to financial services, which are needed to build and protect productive assets. Few smallholders in Eastern Province have access to credit from banks or other formal financial systems. Farmers in Eastern Province do not have the resources or knowledge to engage effectively and equitably in markets. Poorly organized, with few financial resources and limited market information, they have little power to negotiate confidently with buyers or manage commercial relationships.

Smallholder households in Eastern Province do not produce sufficient quantities of quality foods, nor have the financial means, to meet the family’s nutritional needs. Poor dietary diversity and inadequate care and feeding practices contribute to high levels of under-nutrition, particularly for children under two (CU2) and pregnant or lactating women (PLW).


Mawa’s integrated package of services helps households reap the nutrition and economic benefits of diversified agricultural production for more resilient farmers and communities.

  • Agriculture Production: CRS provides agriculture extension and advisory services, with emphasis on conservation agriculture, through 520 lead farmers to more than 10,000 smallholder households, with plans to expand to 20,000. Extension services are provided at demonstration plots, established with technical assistance from Golden Valley Agricultural Research Trust (GART), farm visits and field days. Sustainable production practices and technologies set the foundation for increased incomes and market engagement and improved health and nutrition practices.
  • Nutrition: CRS promotes essential health and nutrition practices through a network of 950 nutrition volunteers to households with pregnant or lactating women and children under two to prevent malnutrition. Through complementary feeding and learning sessions, mothers and caregivers of children under two receive intensive support on proper processing, preparation and preservation of diverse and nutritious foods, with opportunities to reinforce positive health and nutrition practices.
  • Market Engagement: To support the transition from subsistence farming to production for markets, Mawa offers smallholder farmers five essential skills:
    1. Savings and lending skills to maintain and grow assets
    2. Group management skills to plan for collective activities
    3. Business and marketing skills to prepare groups to organize their production process to meet market demand
    4. Natural resource management skills to protect and sustain natural resources
    5. Innovation to adapt to change and manage risks


  • Introduction of SMART Skills through private service providers. CRS has engaged Murdoch University to conduct research on this approach to support learning and adaptation.
  • Linkages between agriculture and nutrition—not only through peer-to-peer health and nutrition education at households, but also in the innovative DiNER approach, which offers access to seed varieties for nutrition and resilience.
  • Use of mobile applications designed in collaboration with Dimagi to support delivery of nutrition education lessons and track participation in community-led complementary feeding and learning sessions. 


Misozi Zulu is a member of Chyembekezo Savings and Internal Lending Community (SILC) group in Chise village. As a budding entrepreneur, she started small, selling buns to neighbors within her village. After successfully paying back her initial loan, Misozi took a larger loan (USD $80) and bought 60 day-old chicks. At six weeks, she sold them, earning about $260. She paid back her second loan, and invested her profits in more chicks. As her poultry business continued to grow, she invested in stocking up a small grocery store, and plans to open to the public in the coming months. Misozi is even expanding her animal husbandry venture to raise cattle. Through the access to financing provided by Mawa’s SILC program, Misozi was able to use her entrepreneurial skills to become a successful businesswoman and a leader in her community.