You are currently viewing Dawn of mechanised farming in North West

Dawn of mechanised farming in North West

MAKING peanut butter on his farm has been the dream of Kelvin Mponge, a small-scale farmer of Solwezi in North-Western Province.
Farming has been Mr Mponge’s main business for 22 years from which he earns a livelihood for his family which comprises a wife and five children.
Expanding his groundnuts field beyond two limas and owning a peanut butter processing machine has been his wish for a long time, but difficult to achieve due to lack of finances.
Earlier attempts to get a loan from financial institutions for him to buy farming equipment failed because he did not have collateral and suppliers of the equipment were too far away for him to successfully negotiate for any possible facility.
Mr Mponge is now delighted that a branch of a company that supplies a wide range of farming equipment has been opened in Solwezi, the capital of North-Western Province.
“Making peanut butter on my farm for sale has always been my dream and now that there is a company that has come to Solwezi to sell agricultural machinery, I will make sure I expand the land on which I plant so that I can sell a lot of peanut butter and make more money,” he said.
Mr Mponge said apart from the peanut butter making machines, he also saw irrigation equipment on display at the CAMCO branch in Solwezi. He therefore  intends to diversify into growing vegetables by installing an irrigation system on his farm, taking advantage of the abundant water resources.
Small-scale farmers in Zambia have been accessing farming equipment through partnerships formed by farmers’ associations, financial institutions and suppliers of agricultural equipment.
However, some small-scale farmers, especially those in far- flung areas, are at a disadvantage because agricultural equipment suppliers are mainly found in commercial centres of Lusaka and the Copperbelt.
This is a big challenge for small-scale farmers who do not have the financial muscle to travel to cities to access machinery, technical training and after-sales services from suppliers.
But this is no more for farmers in North-Western Province as the opening of a branch in Sowezi by CAMCO Equipment Company has offered a variety of services to the local farming community.
This is surely a positive development that will go a long way in increasing agricultural production and reducing poverty in the province.
North-Western Province Minister Dawson Kafwaya, who officiated at the launch of the branch, said poverty levels in the province will be reduced by mechanised farming activities which the farmers will now embark on as a result of the availability of a farming machinery outlet within the province.
“When farming activities are mechanised, farmers will increase production volumes, which will in turn improve Zambia‘s national food security and also increase the farmers’ household incomes,” he said.
Mr Kafwaya said increased household incomes of farmers will help reduce poverty and enable them to meet the educational needs of their children.
“When household incomes of our farmers increase, the poverty levels will inevitably reduce and enable farmers meet the educational needs of their children, thereby contributing to the reduction of illiteracy in Zambia,” he said.
“Government has in the 2016 national budget allocated a significant amount of money towards agriculture and has also maintained the value added tax exemption for tractors of up to 90 horse power in an effort to increase access to farm machinery. So this is a very good incentive for farmers to consider mechanising their systems.”
Mechanising farming systems will enable the farmers fully utilise the favourable weather conditions in North-Western Province to increase their agricultural productivity.
The province, which is in region three of the agro ecological zone, receives average rains of 1,000, mm to 1,500mm a year. The uncommercialised large area of wetlands, dambos, rivers and lakes testifies how low water resources are tapped to increase agricultural productivity.
Provincial agricultural coordinator Derrick Simukanzye said unlike the southern part of Zambia which has received low rainfall, North-Western Province has generally received good rains.
He said with the coming of CAMCO in the province, farmers have the opportunity to own farming and processing equipment to enable them increase their productivity and profits.
“The main factors that limit production of crops in the province are limited hectares planted, the poor type of tillage method where farmers use hand hoes and lack of appropriate draft power.
“The coming in of CAMCO is timely because farmers can be mobilised in groups and access equipment for cultivating, processing and irrigation so that they are able to grow vegetables all year round,” Mr Simukanzye said.
The opening of the CAMCO branch in Solwezi is unprecedented because farmers will be able to buy a wide range of farming equipment and receive technical support from the supplier within the province.
Zambia National Farmers Union district chairperson Merian Kalala has urged farmers to join associations for them to easily access machinery through Ujimi Asset plus loan facility.
“We are very happy that our farmers can now access farming equipment through our Ujimi Asset plus loan facility. So we appeal to all the farmers to apply for agricultural equipment so that they can prepare for the coming season early,” Mrs Kalala said.
CAMCO managing director Bin Zou said his company is willing to go into dealership and partnership with local entrepreneurs to create jobs.
North-Western Province, which covers an area of 125,826 square kilometres, is the most sparsely populated region in the country.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the main crops grown in the province are maize, groundnuts, beans, cassava and pineapples. Although the crop production levels are currently low, with access to appropriate farming equipment, farmers can take advantage of the favourable weather conditions to increase their yields.