ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka
THE Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has launched a rice project at a cost of US$484,000, to increase production of the commodity in Zambia for the next two years.
FAO, through the technical cooperation programme (TCP), responded to Zambiaâ€™s request for technical assistance in implementing the national rice development strategy.
During the launch of the project dubbed â€œstrengthening rice seed production, and enhancing extension services to increase rice production in Zambiaâ€ on Friday, FAO representative to Zambia George Okech said the TCP allows for the implementation of a demand-driven technical assistance that responds to Governmentâ€™s priority needs, catalyse change, foster capacity development, and assist member countries in mobilising resources.
Mr Okech said this during the launch of the rice project in a speech read for him by FAO assistant representative of programme Gregory Chilufya.
He said TCP projects are intended to provide technical support to crop production, fisheries, forestry, natural resources and livelihood activities within FAOâ€™s mandate and competence.
He said the rice project is organised through a wealth of expertise and investment which the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, and its partners, have already made in the development of the rice value chain.
â€œThe project, therefore, draws upon the successes that have been achieved so far, and it incorporates the lessons learned from past experiences.
â€œIt is with this in mind that the implementation of this project should also be forward-looking to ensure that rice value chain continues to grow and make contributions of economic and food nutrition security nature to the country,â€ Mr Okech said.
Earlier, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock permanent secretary Julius Shawa said Government asked for technical support from FAO due to the importance rice has in the agriculture sector in the country.
Mr Shawa said rice is being considered as a strategic crop under Governmentâ€™s crop diversification agenda, with potential to contribute to small-holder farmersâ€™ incomes, food and nutrition security.
â€˜The project is aimed at increasing rice production in Zambia by addressing some of the key constraints being faced by rice producers who are mainly small-scale farmers. These constraints will be addressed through interventions such as the purification of existing rice varieties, and the development of improved varieties, supporting multiplication and supply of quality seed of rice,â€ he said.
Mr Shawa said the project will also enhance the quality of locally produced rice and improved extension services for increased production.
ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka