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FROM left: University of Zambia director technical development Mic Mwala, visiting Jilin Agriculture University vice-president Tong Yicai and Chinese Embassy political counsellor Lai Bo attending the launch of the Overseas seminar for agricultural production technics in Lusaka on Thursday.

Agritech vital for growth of small-scale farming

MICHELO Siamalambo, the crops and husbandry officer for Sesheke district is excited to be taking part in the overseas seminar on agricultural production techniques for Zambia, being held in Lusaka, because he will acquire the latest agriculture production technologies that can be down-scaled to the level of small-scale famers in his area.
The production technologies will help small-scale farmers increase production and productivity. These include irrigation and water saving techniques, integrated weed, pest and disease control techniques, improved crop varieties and value addition technologies.
Mr Siamalambo is among 80 officers from the ministries of Agriculture and Livestock who are participating in the one-month course sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China and being conducted by Jilin Agricultural University of China.
He said the September 20 to October 19 course will facilitate his interaction with both fellow participants and the Chinese experts to share experiences and form linkages for future prospects in terms of trainings for other small-scale farmers in Sesheke district.
“Our job is to share technical knowledge and skills on different agricultural enterprises to our farming community. Therefore, this training will strengthen our knowledge and skills base in order for us to be up to date with the changing trends in agriculture production so as to be able to help our farmers have relevant information and skills,” Mr Siamalambo said.
He said this will translate in more production and productivity which will result in food security for the farmers and the country at large, more income for farmers, more jobs and more forex for the country.
“For the chicken and fish farming, apart from knowledge in improving breeds and management, the trainings on crops such as soya beans will result in farmers growing more of it and one of its by-products, soya bean cake, is a very good protein rich source for livestock (poultry and fish). Crops in short will provide feed for livestock too,” Mr Siamalambo said.
He said officers can also take this opportunity to form linkages with the Chinese university conducting the training to acquire scholarships to go and upgrade on their academic qualifications to strengthen research and technology capabilities.
Mr Siamalambo said the training has come at the right time especially that the Ministries of Agriculture and Livestock and Fisheries are promoting diversification and Smart Agriculture.
“Farmers have to go into production of many other crops and livestock apart from maize. This training will give the officers the extra knowledge and skills that will be transmitted to our farmers. We are now living in the time when climate change has become the talk of the day,” he said.
Mr Siamalambo said the idea now is that if farmers can increase production per unit area, then with less land and water, more can still be produced.
“The environment has to be taken care of and with more advanced knowledge and skills in agriculture production, expected that efficiency will increase and this will also lead to improved conservation of resources,” he said.
Cui Chun, the vice-director of the office of International Cooperation and Exchange said the Jilin Agricultural University (JLAU), which is coordinating the course has implemented the strategy of opening up and unceasingly broadened educational dimensions and set up bilateral exchange and cooperation relationship with 58 universities and research institutes abroad.
“JLAU fully introduces the foreign intellectual resources and has taken an active part in sending the young teachers to develop international scientific cooperation. One joint degree programme has been approved. JLAU develops the international students’ education actively, which became eligible to receive the China – European Union credits Students Scholarship and Jilin Provincial Government Scholarship,” Dr Cui said.
He said centring on the Belt and Road Initiatives, JLAU constructed the first China – Aid programmes with the Agricultural Technical Development Centre (ATDC) at the University of Zambia.
“Under the guidance of Chinese Embassy and economic and commercial counsellor’s office, with the cooperation of University of Zambia, we succeeded in completing the tasks, which has been recognised by the Chinese and Zambian governments and known as South to South Cooperation Model,” Dr Cui said.
He said being the main Chinese implementation unit, Jilin University vigorously develops the trilateral cooperation among Chinese government, Zambian government and Bill Gates Foundation.
“Our university is the first group of higher institutions to undertake the 10+ 10 cooperative projects, sponsored by Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs,” he said.
JLAU has implemented the strategy of opening up and increasingly broadened educational dimensions, and set up bilateral exchange and cooperation relationship with 58 universities and research institutes abroad, such as the U.S, Canada, UK, Italy, Russian, Japan, South Korea, Australia, South Africa and Zambia, among others.
ATDC director Mick Mwala said the extension officers should embrace Chinese culture which has contributed to that country being great.
Speaking during the official opening of the one-month overseas seminar on agricultural production skills for Zambia on Thursday in Lusaka, Dr Mwala told participants drawn from all over the country they should acquire new skills so that they return to their work stations and become agents of change.
“The University of Zambia takes pleasure in participating in the event. Agriculture has been identified as the engine of the economy. We attach importance to agriculture but more so to capacity building” Dr Mwala said.
The one-month course will empower participants with skills of improving village chicken to alleviate poverty in the country.
Ministry of Livestock Permanent Secretary David Shamulenge said the course has come at a time when Government is embarking on a number of programmes that are aimed at improving livestock production and productivity in Zambia.
“As you may be aware, Zambia is positioning itself to start exporting up to a million goats a year to Saudi Arabia. This market is very demanding and requires high quality animals to provide quality carcasses. This production therefore requires good animal husbandry knowledge,” Dr Shamulenge said.
He said the training comes at a right time so as to equip farmers and officers with necessary skills and knowledge to participate effectively in these projects.