Fish trader in Lusaka, Zambia. Photo by Stevie Mann.
Initiative Result:

Demand-led approaches boost common bean access in Zambia

An innovative, market-focused model called DLSS, developed by PABRA, has been mainstreamed by the CGIAR Research Initiative on Seed Equal. The approach has significantly enhanced bean seed production in Zambia. EGS production surged by 221.4 percent, while certified and quality-declared seed production increased six-fold between 2021 and 2023. New varieties accounted for 88 percent of seed produced, improving varietal turnover. Additional effects included a 10.2 percent increase in bean grain production in 2023 and an 11 percent expansion in bean harvest area.

Beans are vital for households in Zambia and smallholder farmers’ livelihoods rely on access to quality bean seeds. Now, a major shift in seed system collaboration is ensuring farmers can meet demand by accessing the best seeds available. The project demonstrates how new models supported by Seed Equal are helping smallholder farmers and improving access to nutritious food.

The DLSS approach developed by PABRA has been mainstreamed under Seed Equal. DLSS involves several key steps: defining and ranking bean varieties, investing in seed increase, catalyzing offtaker investment, conducting collaborative marketing campaigns, building capacity for seed  producers, and fostering partnerships and coordination among various value chain actors through multistakeholder partnerships.

Applying this model has increased EGS production to ensure farmers can access high-quality seed of common bean varieties. The DLSS leveraged PABRA’s existing, impactful, road-tested models, which initially segmented the value chain into production, distribution, and consumption hubs in 2015. Notably, the project introduced the concept of bean corridors, which linked grain and seed production to market preferences through MSPs  focusing on off-takers (entities that purchase beans or bean products from farmers or producers for further processing, distribution, or sale).

Through these strategic interventions, breeder seed production grew 24 percent, from 3.2 to nearly 4 tons, while pre-basic seed production surged from 13.4 tons in 2021 to 43 tons in 2022—a remarkable 221 percent increase. Certified and quality-declared seed production rose from 1,424 tons in 2021 to 8,381 tons in 2023—a six-fold increase. New varieties prioritized by off-takers and other scaling partners contributed to 88 percent of the seed produced in 2023. The anticipated varietal turnover (the rate at which new varieties replace existing ones), currently predicted at 11.5 years, is expected to improve further with an increased share of new varieties.

Grain off-takers played a pivotal role in the success of seed production. They defined the leading market classes based on market demand, informed seed production decisions, and guided the breeding pipeline. In implementing the DLSS approach, CGIAR’s national partner Zambian Agricultural Research Institute and CIAT strategically collaborated with key players across the bean value chain, ensuring delineating roles for each participant, along with transparency. In 2022, the Initiative forged partnerships with six grain off-takers. Through these partnerships, off-takers were connected to several seed companies, which produce seed based on the demand created by grain off-takers.

Zambia saw a remarkable surge in bean production due to concerted efforts to enhance seed production, private sector investments, small-scale farmer training, policy influence supporting prioritized varieties, variety promotion, and strategic linkages. Bean production grew from 54,678 tons in 2022 to 88,095 tons in 2023. Furthermore, between 2021 and 2023, data from the Food and Agriculture Organization indicate a noteworthy 10.2 percent increase in bean production and an approximately 11 percent average national yield increase from 0.57 kg/ha. to 0.63 kg/ha. These positive changes can be partially attributed to enhanced production through access to and adoption of high-quality seed of better-yielding varieties.

By linking EGS production with bean corridors and grain off-takers, this demand-led system approach substantially improved seed availability and varietal turnover. This has enhanced the supply of common bean grain in Zambia. Effective collaboration among stakeholders, farmer training, and support is critical for sustaining this momentum.

Progress is not limited to Zambia. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture is piloting the demand-led seed systems approach for cowpea in Nigeria, where it is showing tremendous potential for impact. The future of smallholder livelihoods and consumer access to better foods looks bright with this collaborative seed system approach.

The demand-led system approach can improve seed availability and variety turnover, and enhance common bean grain supply in Zambia,  by linking early-generation seed production with bean corridors and grain off-takers.

Mwiinga Mulube, Plant Breeder and Agronomist, Zambia Agricultural Research Institute

Header photo: Fish trader in Lusaka, Zambia. Stevie Mann.

CGIAR Centers

CIAT (Alliance) ∙ Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT ∙
Regional Hub (International Center for Tropical Agriculture/Centro
Internacional de Agricultura Tropical)


Makerere University ∙ Zambia Agricultural Research Institute; Good Nature Agro; Blue Oak Agro; Vamara ∙ Yanza Amansa; Standa; Comaco; Good Nature Agro-seeds; Afreseed; Kamano Seed Company; AMAC Seed Company; Kariba Seed Company. The result builds on previous work by Improving Bean Production and Marketing in Africa, which was funded by Global Affairs Canada.