ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka
STAKEHOLDERS in the agriculture sector have been challenged to devise strategies that increase farmer schools to help them acquire knowledge of cotton production, a latest report by the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) notes.
On average, cotton farmers in Zambia can increase output by 57 percent with the same level of inputs as long as they improve the level of efficiency, according to a report dubbed â€œTechnical efficiency: Are Zambian cotton farmers lagging behind.
IAPRI notes that an increase in male participation in extension meetings such as study circles and farmer schools can help them acquire knowledge of cotton production and, subsequently, improve output.
â€œEnhanced productivity and efficiency among cotton farmers is very important in improving the competitiveness and sustainability of the sector and can have a huge bearing in smallholder household poverty reduction.
â€œAdditionally, the study highlights several key findings that [suggest] female-headed households are more efficient than male-headed households when it comes to cotton production. Cotton farmers from Eastern and Southern provinces are relatively more efficient than their counterparts from Central Province,â€ it reads.
The efficiency of cotton farmers in the country is affected by factors such as gender and Governmentâ€™s support being concentrated around maize production.
Furthermore, it suggests that farmers should strive to rotate cotton with maize to allow the plant to benefit from residue fertilisers that might have been applied in the maize fields.
The report says there is need for farmersâ€™ access to agricultural advice such as on minimum tillage, crop rotation and mixed cropping to increase the participation of smallholder farm households to diversify their yields by 1.7 percent.