ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka
ALLIANCE for a Green Revolution (AGRA) says 23,000 farmers have been trained in post-harvest handling to improve food security in the country.
AGRA president Agnes Kalibata said the organisation will continue training farmers in programmes that will have positive impact on the economy.
At a press briefing recently, Dr Kalibata said if post-harvest loss can be avoided, it will be of great significance to the agriculture value chain.
â€œIn Zambia, AGRA is working with several financial institutions and Government to boost small-holder farmersâ€™ output and incomes. So far, 12,066 farmers have benefited from training in business development, group dynamics and leadership while 23,268 have been trained in post-harvest handling, quality standards, storage and structured trading.
â€œTo date, about 28,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser have been sold to farmers through AGRA-supported organisations and an estimated 617,000 farmers are growing improved varieties related to AGRA interventions, covering nearly 254,000 hectares while more than 57,600 farmers are now using fertiliser, organic manure and good agronomic practices to cultivate over 38,000 hectares of farm-land,â€ Dr Kalibata said.
She also said that the organisation has embarked on various training programmes to help strengthen the agriculture sector in Zambia and the region.
Dr Kalibata said over 1,000 lead farmers have been trained in agronomic practices to enable them to implement soil-based practices and increase crop production.
â€œAGRA has trained 1,016 lead farmers in agronomic practices, and 279 farmer organisations in governance and leadership. We have also strengthened the skills of 97 extension agents with respect to agronomic practices. Thirteen new varieties have been formally released in Zambia, four of which have been disseminated to farmers,â€ she said.
Dr Kalibata said AGRA is happy to have supported 11 doctorate students in plant breeding and agronomy.
Another 22 Master of Science students have been sponsored and are studying general crop and soil science.
â€œSix of the PhD candidates have graduated, all of them with degrees in crop breeding. Four are working for the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute [with skills in breeding improved varieties of beans, cassava, and maize], one is providing expertise as a maize breeder to the Zambian Seed Control and Certification Institute, and one has been employed by National Agricultural Research Organisation of Uganda as a sweet potato breeder,â€ she said.
ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka