Zambia Biofortified Maize Challenge Project



The AgResults Zambia Biofortified Maize Project was intended as a five-year, US $7 million Pay-for-Results prize competition to increase the awareness and consumption of biofortified, pro-Vitamin A (PVA) maize. The incentive consisted of two parts: 1) prizes to incentivize seed companies to produce and sell PVA maize seed to farmers; and 2) similar prizes to commercial grain millers that purchase PVA maize from farmers and subsequently mill and sell maize meal. The project was terminated early due to the lack of participation by the millers caused by a continually changing enabling environment and the lack of demand for biofortified PVA maize meal.


The Challenge Project was designed to teach smallholder farmers about the nutritional benefits of PVA maize.

The learning journey

The problem

Vitamin A Deficiency Is a Major Health Challenge

In Africa, more than 500,000 women and children die each year because they do not receive enough Vitamin A in their daily diets. Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness, a greater susceptibility to infection, stunting, and slowed growth in children. In Zambia, approximately 31% of children and 21% of women are affected by this preventable illness.

Contest design

Theory of Change

The project hypothesized that a PfR prize incentive would cause commercial milling companies in Zambia to invest in sourcing, production, and marketing of Pro-Vitamin A maize, leading to both increased market demand for PVA maize products and increased supply as smallholder farmers adopt PVA maize to supply the market and their households. The overall improved market for PVA maize would translate to increased Vitamin A consumption and a resulting reduction in Vitamin A deficiency in Zambia.

Prize Structure

AgResults created an incentive schedule of sales thresholds to incentivize seed companies and commercial millers to increase both supply and demand of PVA maize. The competition provided threshold payments that participating companies could receive if they sold a certain amount of seed or maize meal.

The amount of money a competitor could win was calculated as 1) a base threshold payment based on the total sale threshold reached, and 2) an additional per unit payment for each metric ton of PVA maize seed or meal sold above the applicable thresholds. If participating companies failed to reach the initial grant thresholds, they would not receive a prize.

Expected impact

The project aimed to catalyze the development of a sustainable, smallholder-inclusive market for PVA maize in Zambia and in doing so create awareness about PVA maize health benefits. Consequently, the project was expected to increase consumption of PVA maize by smallholders, rural consumers and urban consumers and reduced Vitamin-A deficiency in these populations. In addition, smallholders were expected to realize improved incomes from the sale of PVA maize should the increased demand lead to a market premium for PVA maize in the short run.

Actual results

The project closed early. However, the closure has led to a wealth of learning on what works and what does not.


# of Competitors


Prize funds awarded (USD)


PVA Maize Seed Sales

Learning & evaluation

What We've Learned through Implementation

This table illustrates how our learning has evolved in Zambia from project design through implementation. Further details can be found in the Learning Library.

Recent News and Learning

Below are recent learning products related to Zambia.
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Published: October 24, 2017

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Published: September 07, 2017

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Published: June 02, 2017

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Evaluation Design

Factors specific to the Zambia pilot context make quantitative impact evaluation and causal attribution less feasible than with other AgResults pilots. Our approach in Zambia therefore relies more heavily on rigorous, qualitative research methods. For this pilot, we use a mixed methods approach involving structured case comparisons of smallholder farming households, the Structure, Conduct, Performance analytical framework to analyze the behavior of other value chain actors, and a repeat cross-sectional survey of urban consumers to assess trends in PVA maize consumption over time.

Evaluation Stage

The baseline was carried out in mid-2015 just before competitors’ involvement began; the endline was scheduled for late 2018 but is no longer expected as the pilot was terminated because of lack of private sector response.

Project team