Poverty and food security are endemic issues in much of sub-Saharan Africa. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger in the region remains a key Millennium Development Goal. Many African governments have pursued economic reforms and agricultural policy interventions in order to accelerate economic growth that reduces poverty faster. Agricultural policy regimes in Zambia in the last 50 years (1964'2008) are examined here to better understand their likely impact on food security and poverty, with an emphasis on the political economy of maize subsidy policies. The empirical work draws on secondary sources and an evaluation of farm household data from three villages in the Kasama District of Zambia from 1986/87 and 1992/93 to estimate a two-period econometric model to examine the impact on household welfare in a pre- and post-reform period. The analysis shows that past interventions had mixed effects on enhancing the production of food crops such as maize. While such reforms were politically popular, it did not necessarily translate into household-level productivity or welfare gains in the short term. The political economy of reforms needs to respond to the inherent diversity among the poor rural and urban households. The potential of agriculture to generate a more pro-poor growth process depends on the creation of new market opportunities that most benefit the rural poor. The state should encourage private sector investments for addressing infrastructure constraints to improve market access and accelerate more pro-poor growth through renewed investments in agriculture, rural infrastructure, gender inclusion, smarter subsidies and regional food trade. However, the financing of such investments poses significant challenges. There is a need to address impediments to the effective participation of public private investors to generate more effective poverty reduction and hunger eradication programmes. This article also explores the opportunitiesfor new public'private investments through South'South cooperation and Asia-driven growth for reducing poverty in Zambia.