Editor's Comment

Farmers should diversify by growing cassava

Cassava plant.

OFTEN, we hear our farmers complain that they have no market for their grain. Sometimes, the complaint is targeted at  erratic rains.
Like in any business, farmers are expected to look outside the box to survive. Looking outside the box for farmers entails diversifying their crop production and choice of animals to keep.
Farmers in Luapula Province who grow cassava have another ally in Zambian Breweries besides the Food and Reserve Agency (FRA), which has included cassava in its purchases for 2016 season.
Zambian Breweries has announced that it will buy 1,000 tonnes of cassava for the next six months in a move that will accelerate the farming of the crop in Luapula Province.
The gesture by Zambian Breweries to source cassava for the production of Eagle lager from the farmers in Luapula will ultimately improve the agribusiness for small-holder farmers in that region.
The initiative by the brewery firm to buy cassava over the next six months will also improve rural livelihoods because it will facilitate the participation of small-holder farmers in the local economy.
The decision by Zambian Breweries to source cassava from small-scale farmers, which is part of efforts to support the development of the cassava value chain, shows that there are opportunities in Zambia for farmers.
Our expectation is that farmers will seize this opportunity to meet the demand of the brewery firm.
Zambian Breweries may just be one of the several firms out there working with farmers to compensate them for their sweat.
With President Edgar Lungu announcing last week that farmers will from this season set their own prices, it is an opportunity for the farming community to rise to the occasion and take advantage of the market forces.
Zambian farmers are hard workers. However, to break even, they need corporations such as brewery and milling firms to work with.
For a long time, milling firms have relied on maize purchases from FRA.
Following President Lungu’s pronouncement, brewery, bakery and milling firms have to start engaging farmers as out-growers.
This entails signing a memorandum of understanding with farmers to work together to support small-scale farmers in the production of more and better crops.
The corporate world – breweries, millers and seed companies-should play a leading role in ensuring food security for the country through technical assistance, training and easier access to finance for the farmers.
This will support local economic development and promote inclusive growth.
Farmers have to be receptive to corporates by giving them an ear and also demanding improved varieties which are drought- resistant and early-maturing.
Zambian Breweries have set the pace by targeting Luapula, where it is not just buying cassava but contemplating setting up a processing plant in Mansa.
It is not the only region cultivating cassava. There is plenty of it in Nkeyema in Western Province and many other areas which may also require a processing plant.
It is a good starting point and farmers should wholeheartedly seize the opportunity and discard the myth that maize is the only crop that can earn them money.

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