When a proposal to upgrade human capabilities was submitted to the Zambian Department of Agriculture a long standing relationship began between the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. The partnership started obtaining funds in 1981, and moved into the field from 1982-1988. It was initiated by the Zambian Minister of Agriculture, who hoped to assist the department of agriculture's associated research stations to upgrade human capabilities and provide research direction using the extension model as a framework.
Seven professors were put on the ground in Zambia from a range of disciplines. "The term farming systems was a buzz word at the time. There were many efforts to attempt to integrate research and extension at the whole farm level, instead of positioning specialists solely by commodity," said Oval Myers of SIU. In Zambia, corn, soybeans and sunflower were primary commodities.
The Zambian Department of Agriculture Research Stations were set up with three person teams called adaptive research planning teams (ARPT's). The teams, consisting of one farming system expert, one economist, and one extension specialist. The teams were to interface with commodity experts on the ground in the area of corn, soybeans and sunflowers or other local crops. The U of I and SIU team were located in Zambia's Central Province. Other provinces also had teams on the ground from England, Germany and Scandinavia.
Four duty stations were established for the ZAMARE project. The capitol, Lusaka, was home for the team leader who worked side-by-side with the Director of Agriculture. The capitol was 10 miles to the Mt. Makulu station, with two of the other stations, Magoye and Kabwe 2-3 hours by vehicle. Driving was the only reliable method of communication as the telephone service was erratic and shortwave radios didn't always work.
At the beginning of the Zambian independence in 1964, there was one Bachelor of Science graduate in the Ministry. In 1988, 49 had received B.S. or advanced degrees through the program, mostly receiving them at U of I or SIU.
Dr. Myers shared his reasoning for being involved in the project by saying: "The West was already won, and I was too old to go to the moon."