BENEDICT TEMBO, Lusaka
FOUR institutions have combined forces to make smallholder agri-business more profitable as envisaged in the recently unveiled Seventh National
Development Plan (7NDP).
The Czech-based Mendel University, Agriserve Agro, Breeding Impuls Zambia and University of Africa (UoA) have developed an on-farm training programme to help smallholder dairy farmers scale up their production in a sustainable manner.
The training, which is the first of its kind in Zambia, is targeting 150 farmers by the end of the year and will be conducted at the Czech Centre of Excellence located at Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre.
“The 7NDP puts agri-business sector at the front and centre in Zambia’s development trajectory.
“This programme speaks directly to the two key priorities identified for agriculture in the 7NDP, namely improving farmers’ incomes through increased productivity and increasing agricultural output to stimulate upstream and downstream supply chains by promoting productivity-enhancing technology and training,” UoA vice-chancellor Tobias Doyer said in a statement yesterday.
Dr Doyer said underpinning the programme is the recognition that big farming enterprises were all once small and transformed into commercial operations by following right principles using low input production systems in livestock farming.
“What we are finding is that lack of practical knowledge in applying low input production systems is the major hindrance among smallholder dairy farmers. In some cases, once farmers invest money, they are forced to maximise production regardless of the environment and sustainability,” he says.
Agriserve Agro chief executive officer Renier van Vuuren said the training introduced farmers to innovative, low-cost dairy farming methods to help them increase productivity and sustain it.
Livestock farming generally requires high capital outlay, and the lack of it hinders smallholder dairy farmers from employing workers, and buying feed, medicine and equipment necessary for day-to-day running of the business.
“Enhancing nutrition of cattle is central to running a profitable and sustainable dairy farming enterprise, and the use of Moringa, molasses and other crop residue significantly reduces the cost of animal feed for smallholder farmers,” Mr van Vuuren said.