The Rural Agricultural Livelihood Survey (RALS) is a new panel survey designed to obtain a comprehensive picture of Zambia’s small- and medium-scale farming sector using the 2010 census sampling frame. An earlier household panel survey for rural Zambia was the Supplemental Surveys (SS) of 2001, 2004 and 2008, which enabled the publication of a large set of important research outputs by IAPRI, Michigan State University and a range of Zambian and international partner organizations. However, the SS was based on the 2000 Census and considered to be increasingly unable to provide a statistically representative picture of rural livelihoods and the agricultural sector in light of major demographic changes between 2000 and 2010.
The Central Statistical Office (CSO) Post-Harvest Surveys (PHS) and Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) Crop Forecast Surveys (CFS) provide reasonably solid information on crop production, sales, and input use for a wide variety of field crops, but these surveys contain limited or no information on: (i) crops known to have become an important source of smallholder crop income in recent years, such as fresh fruits and vegetables; (ii) sales of animal and fish products; (iii) off-farm and non-farm labour and small enterprise income; (iv) intergenerational transfers, including inheritances which might affect households’ current livelihoods; iv) in and out migration which might affect household welfare; (v) natural resources use and management, such as forests, which are an important source of food and income for rural households and; (vi) a broader set of positive and negative shocks affecting households’ current conditions.
In order to overcome these knowledge gaps, IAPRI works with the CSO and MAL to design, implement and analyse additional rural livelihood surveys to obtain a broader set of household livelihood activities and outcomes. The purpose of the RALS is to provide policy relevant information that is not practical to collect annually from the government agricultural surveys. For example, collecting comprehensive income data through RALS allows us to understand the effects of government policies and programs on rural incomes and poverty – something that is not possible with the PHS and CFS. The RALS also enable Zambian policy makers to accurately monitor progress toward achieving its national policy goals.
Also, there have been major changes in farm structure occurring in Zambia, though there is little information collected in existing surveys on the characteristics and productivity of larger farms greater than 20 hectares (Ha). Because of these gaps, Zambian policy makers and the public are not able to obtain a comprehensive picture of trends in livelihoods and welfare. It therefore becomes difficult to accurately monitor trends in Zambia’s agricultural and rural sectors or assess progress toward achieving the country’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), and other national policy goals.
Although, the RALS sample is based on households cultivating less than 20 Ha, as this is the definition used to classify farmers into small and medium-scale farmers in Zambia, the information collected allows us to know about households owning more than 20 Ha. This is because the survey collects comprehensive information on all types of land use including virgin, fallow, rented out and orchard land. Therefore, the RALS provides an opportunity to widen its focus to include farms larger than 20 Ha in order to get a more comprehensive picture of the agricultural sector in Zambia and better understand the contribution of the larger farms to the food security situation in Zambia. In addition, as a panel the RALS enables analysts to use analytical techniques that are unavailable with cross sectional data.
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