The Zambian agriculture sector is poised for good things to come in the future! Why is this?
With favourable agriculture policies by the government, the country could record increased production of major crops.
For example, as a result of favourable policies by the government in recent years we have seen increased production in crops such as sunflower, soya beans, rice, maize, tobacco and wheat.
The country is endowed with a large land resource base of 42 million hectares of which only 1.5 million hectares is cultivated every year.
Also Zambia is again endowed with abundant water resources for irrigation. Just imagine, the country has 40 percent of the water in Central and Southern Africa!
The Zambian government has taken a deliberate policy to shift the economic base away from mining to agriculture and Tourism. The stream lined policy on agriculture has seen the country being self-sufficient in its most important and staple food, maize, for quite some time now.
And this is for a good reason. Just imagine the agriculture industry in Zambia accounts for a sizable portion of the GDP!
Currently the government under the Fertilizer support Program provides input to farmers.
However, the late distribution of agriculture inputs like fertilize and seed, and accessing agricultural finance may have a negative impact.
However, one factor that contributes immensely to maize production is rainfall, since the produce is usually determined by the rainfall pattern.
Also the government is playing its part. Farmers at Chinenke irrigation project in Mbala are encouraged to adopt intensive conservation farming in order to increase their yields by about two times the usual amount of yield. This would be possible with the support coming from the government.
The Zambian agriculture sector has enormous potential in export earnings. Agricultural products have a huge market across the African continent. In fact Zambia has unimaginable opportunities for food production to feed the entire sub region.
For example, Zambia could be self-sufficient in rice production. The year 2009 saw a bumper harvest of rice in Western province - known as Mongu rice - to such an extent that farmers were struggling to sell it.
80 percent of Zambia’s population is dependent on agriculture. The majority of farmers are small scale. And most of these farmers grow maize for their livelihood.
But there are the problems in the marketing and selling of the commodity. Each year the government sets aside enormous amounts of Kwacha for the purchase of the maize, but the amounts are not usually adequate.
So in most cases, the budget set aside each year by the government for the purchase of Maize falls woefully below what has actually been produced.
With what result?
The country’s small scale farmers are forced to sell the surplus to the private sector and briefcase buyers below the recommended floor price.
In order to increase yield in this area, government should continue to source additional funds so that all surplus maize produced by small scale farmers should be bought, in this way it will be a big boost to all farmers making about 99 percent of Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU).
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