Zambia Biofortified Maize Challenge Project



The AgResults Zambia Biofortified Maize Challenge Project was intended as a five-year, US$7 million Pay-for-Results prize competition to increase the awareness around 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) prizes to commercial grain millers that purchase PVA maize from farmers and subsequently mill and sell maize meal. In 2018, due to the lack of market response and ongoing enabling environment challenges, AgResults decided to terminate the project. Tanager International served as the Project Manager.


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 due to Vitamin A deficiency, which causes blindness as well as possible stunting in children. In Zambia, approximately 31% of children and 21% of women are affected by this preventable condition.

Contest design

Theory of Change

The project hypothesized that a PfR prize incentive would encourage commercial milling companies in Zambia to invest in sourcing, production, and marketing of PVA maize. This investment would increase market demand for PVA maize products and increase supply as smallholder farmers adopt PVA maize to sell and to consume at home. The overall improved market for PVA maize would translate to increased Vitamin A consumption, driving down rates of Vitamin A deficiency in Zambia.

Prize Structure

The prizes were designed using 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 sales 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 sales threshold, they would not receive a prize.

Expected impact

TThe project aimed to catalyze the development of a sustainable, smallholder-inclusive market for PVA maize in Zambia and raise awareness about the health benefits of PVA maize. Consequently, the project was expected to increase consumption of PVA maize and reduce Vitamin A deficiency among smallholder farmers as well as rural and urban consumers. In addition, if increased demand led to a market premium for PVA maize, smallholder farmers were expected to boost incomes from the sale of PVA maize.

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 17, 2022

Exploring the Post-Project PVA Maize Market in Zambia

October 17, 2022 Vitamin A deficiency is a signif...

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Published: April 22, 2019

Expert Analysis: Three Insights Implementing Prize Competitions in Zambia and Kenya

April 22, 2019 By Hannah Guedenet and Andrew Gath...

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Published: October 24, 2017

Agresults Awards $181,437 in Prizes to Private Sector Seed Companies in Zambia

October 24, 2017 On Tuesday, October 10, 2017, at...

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Published: September 07, 2017

AgResults and PVA Maize Market Stakeholders Met to Discuss Challenges at First Zambia Lessons Learned Event

September 7, 2017 On June 22, the AgResults Zambi...

Evaluation Design

Due to contextual factors in Zambia, the Evaluation approach relies more on rigorous qualitative research rather than quantitative impact evaluation and causal attribution. The mixed methods approach involved structured case comparisons of smallholder farming households, use of 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 report, available here, was carried out in mid-2015 prior to competitor participation.  The endline was scheduled for late 2018 but is no longer expected as the project was terminated early.

Project team