Importance of Site: The southern African country of Zambia is characterized by wide scale cultivation of the staple crop, maize. Maize was introduced to Africa relatively recently but quickly supplanted traditional grain crops like sorghum and millet. Policies that support intensive production including cultivation of hybrid varieties of maize have contributed to the proliferation of maize across the landscape. Liberalization of the seed market has created a complex seed decision environment for farmers (Waldman et al., 2017), with the influx of hundreds of varieties of hybrid maize and little information exchange with farmers. Urban food systems in Zambia are shaped by rural production dynamics and the overreliance on maize.
Site description: Zambia is a dryland agroecosystem with rainfall ranging from less than 800 mm/year to over 14500 mm/year, that experiences frequent drought and dry spells. To cope with variable rainfall conditions, breeders have developed earlier maturing hybrid maize varieties to allow farmers to produce maize crops within the shorter low rainfall growing periods. Urban food security depends on production conditions and the spatial distribution of maize throughout the country.
Data Collection Approach/Methods: This research will take a mixed methods approach, combining cognitive and decision sciences with ethnography and social network analysis. The primary aim is to understand decisions and food flows from small scale producers to the main urban hubs and smaller regional hubs, which are points of food aggregation. At the rural level we will look at how perceptions of environmental change and resilience interact with policies to impact food production decisions. Fieldwork will include a range of surveys with rural producers, food aggregators (including street vendors), and urban consumers. We will conduct both rural and urban surveys over multiple years targeting urban consumers in Lusaka and smaller cities around the country. A similar number of rural producers and food aggregators around smaller towns in arid parts of each country will be surveyed for the rural portion.