KELLY NJOMBO, Lusaka
GOOD Nature Agro, a local firm, is targeting over 5,000 smallholder farmers to access improved seed varieties of legume to promote crop diversification.
The institute says one of Zambia’s biggest agricultural challenges is the lack of availability of high quality early germination and certified seed in the right quantities and at the right time.
In a statement posted on the website recently, Good Nature said the expansion will enable the firm work with a total of 5,000 farmers producing certified soya bean, cowpeas, groundnuts and pigeon pea seeds in Eastern Province.
“From the present 2,200 growers producing for us an expected 600 metric tonnes of quality legume seed will be entering the market in 2017.
“Good Nature will add 5,200 smallholder farmers to out-grower network and train an additional 80 private extension agents, and this will see our farmers benefit from a net income increase of US$500 per hectare,” the statement reads.
It said the firm is also expanding its private extension agent network and is providing soil analysis and creating an organic fertiliser blend specifically targeted at smallholder legume seed farmers.
Good Nature said small-scale famers are often accustomed to growing only maize, they rarely have the means or knowledge to plant any other seed for a more profitable crop, especially that Government extension training for farmers is mostly unavailable.
The institute said choosing to underinvest in extension agents means that for every 5,000 Zambian farmers there is only one government extension agent to approach for advice about their fields.
“This desperate ratio offers little assistance to farmers’ difficult, long-term decisions, as only generic information can be provided by these agents. Farmers want to know how to revitalise their depleted soil, diversify to more valuable crops, and raise their family out of extreme poverty,” Good Nature notes.
International policy-makers, development organisations and governments are advocating for crop diversification and promoting the benefits of legume crops.