by Francis Maingalia
The Zambian government plans to modernize agricultural production in the country, transforming it along the lines of business efficiency and productivity.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency on Monday, Zambian Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda said: “Agriculture in Zambia has great potential to increase exports, and earn hard currency if productivity in agriculture could be increased."
Lubinda said that agriculture has remained below its potential for many years. To tap this potential, the government will seek to modernize Zambian agriculture, transforming it along the lines of business efficiency and productivity.
The government will also support investment by producers in modern, labor-saving technology.
Much arable land is not used
“About 80 percent of Zambia’s population depends on agriculture. Zambia has arable land that covers 47 percent of the country’s total surface, but only 15 percent of this land is under cultivation. Only 7.08 percent is estimated as in use for crops, and permanent crops take up only 0.03 percent,” the minister said.
According to Lubinda, there are about 600,000 farmers in Zambia in various categories.
“But, of these farmers, we have only 740 commercial farmers that hold in excess of 60 hectares (6,458,346 square feet). Most of the land, about 76 percent, is occupied by a mix of medium- to small-scale farmers.”
The result is that productivity is low.
“But if we put our heads together, with the right information, including the supports needed, we can make agriculture work in Zambia,” he added.
Risk sharing to increase production
“To increase production, the government will try to guarantee risks in agriculture, making it easier for farmers to grow more,” Lubinda said.
The government will also seek private partners to share risks in production, Lubinda said.
With risk sharing, the government can move to create agricultural value chains, he added.
And there is a potentially vast market for Zambian produce, according to Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president Evelyn Nguleka told Anadolu Agency in an interview on Monday.
“Zambia has unimaginable opportunities for agriculture. The only problem is in the marketing and selling our produce. But if the government plan materializes, this will be the thing of the past,” Nguleka said, adding that further financial support to the sector from the government would be a step in the right direction.
The latest Zambia Development Agency, (ZDA) report shows that agriculture currently contributes only about 10 percent of the country’s total export earnings.
“Weak land tenure policies, lack of access to markets and finance, and lack of incentives for farmers are holding back the sector,” Nguleka said. “A lot needs to be done in terms of industrialization. It is only then that we can get the desired goals out of agriculture.”
Minister Lubinda pointed out that the transformation of the agriculture sector along the lines of a modern business will attract investors who will see the opportunities for growth.
The government will also support the construction of feeder roads, the creation of agricultural cooperatives, and the development of agroindustry, Lubinda said.
“We need to take advantage of the growing size of the market, not only in the region, but abroad,” Lubinda said.
“With clear policies in place, the agriculture industry will transform the Zambian economy,” he added.
“Agriculture is life and that is the reason why we need a new agricultural revolution. We cannot continue to use the same methods that have failed us in the past,” Lubinda said.