KELLY NJOMBO, Lusaka
AS ZAMBIA continues on its diversification agenda, the livestock sector has not lagged behind to play a significant role in boosting rural livelihoods.
The sector is also contributing to the economy by providing income and employment for producers and other key players in the entire value chain.
However, despite the potential to significantly contribute to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and foreign exchange, the livestock sector is still exposed to various challenges such as animal diseases, lack of adequate resources, poor access to veterinary drugs, and poor knowledge management on animal welfare.
Various stakeholders are pushing to ensure the sector is fully developed by lobbying for increased investment and change of legal framework towards livestock production, given the rapidly growing demand for animal products and the important contribution of the sector to the economy, consumers and the farmers.
Recently, various stakeholders made their appeals to the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Land and Natural Resources, chaired by Kaputa Member of Parliament Maxus Ng’onga with emphasis on giving the sector more attention and increasing budget allocation to address various challenges affecting the further development of the sector.
In its submission, the Development Bank of Zambia (DBZ) is tackling the woes by setting aside K50 million for loan disbursements to various livestock and crop projects across the country to further develop livestock production.
DBZ managing director Jacob Lushinga observes that there is need for the development of the livestock sector through the provision of sustained financing options and affordable vaccines across the country.
Notably, majority of livestock farmers lack financial support and knowledge on animal maintenance and this has exposed their animals to livestock diseases.
To improve animal health and welfare, Zambeef Products Plc feels comprehensive trainings of livestock farmers to enable them to produce quality products will make the industry competitive.
Company head of marketing and corporate affairs Felix Lupindula suggests the need to work on the legal framework governing the livestock industry to make it more viable.
On the other hand, setting up of co-operatives among livestock producers will also help in the distribution of farming inputs among farmers.
“Training farmers in good agriculture practices in dairy, poultry, and beef and pig production will improve the quality of products coming from farmers, thereby making Zambia’s livestock industry more competitive,” Mr Lupindula says.
Importantly, the sector urgently needs an entire value chain such as establishment of export abattoirs to enable the country to tap into regional markets by exporting various meat products to increase foreign exchange.
This also came out clearly, after WE EFFECT, a Swedish Corporative non-governmental organisation made its observations, stressing the need to establish the Zambia Agriculture for Export (ZamAgric4Export) strategy to strengthen business linkages among farmers on the international markets.
“Zambia needs to develop mandatory standards for market incentivisation for farmers to enable them benefit from both local and international markets such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola,” suggests company project co-ordinator Martin Sekeleti.
With what the country is currently producing, Government should consider coming up with measures that will benefit farmers and the country as a whole through foreign exchange.
“Given the huge potential for agricultural production [against] a population that cannot absorb all the national production, Zambia needs to position itself for export. Zambia must develop and operationalise the ZamAgric4Export strategy, building in measures for business development among the farmers, including livestock farmers,” he said.
While this is needed, Zambia has embraced the information and communication technology (ICTs) being practiced globally and therefore, the livestock sector is no exception.
In observing the changing trend, National Union for Small-Scale Farmers Association of Zambia (NUSFAZ) feels the use of ICTs in the livestock sector to access local and international markets is cardinal.
NUSFAZ president Frank Kayula also requests that independent organisations should be engaged to establish effectiveness of government programmes on disease control to help farmers access cheaper drugs.
Furthermore, the promotion of easy access to livestock farming inputs, through the establishment of a livestock development voucher, will help address such challenges being faced by small-scale farmers.
To this, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) country representative George Okechi says a mechanism must be developed to ensure farmers to-be are availed with livestock inputs such as medicine, vaccines, and dip tanks at a cost recovery basis.
Additionally, a mechanism should also be developed to provide for food security for animals to improve feed in the dry season.
These suggestions coupled with increased research development are key in the development of the sector which millions of people in Zambia depend on for their livelihood, as observed by Policy Monitoring and Research Centre (PMRC).
“There is need to continue formulating policies that will sustain the livestock sector in the long run, by making it competitive on the local and regional markets.
“Careful analysis and assessment is required so that livestock development strategies can be reoriented towards better use of local resources, contribute more effectively to food security, improve the living standards of poor farmers and ensure sustainable animal agricultural development,” notes PMRC head of monitoring and evaluation Salim Kaunda.
All said and done, there is need for continued engagement by Government, livestock farmers, processors and key stakeholders to effectively come up with a livestock policy and regulations that they will benefit all players in the entire value chain.
If well managed, the livestock sector presents strong potential to generate substantial revenue and employment enough to provide more visible economic benefits to the country and improve livelihoods.
KELLY NJOMBO, Lusaka