MARGARET CHISANGA, Kabwe
CENTRAL Province, one of Zambia’s 10 provinces, is home to over 1.5 million people, many of whose households are involved in some form of agricultural practice. The province provides 20.64 percent of the total area of cultivated land in Zambia and contributes 23.85 percent of the total agricultural production in the country, with wheat being the major crop. Experts say the area has capacity to produce even more, but farmers are hindered by challenges that render it difficult to transition from subsistence farming to commercial farming.
Of the 11 districts which make up the province, only four are considered commercial farming blocks. The province, however, is home to several subsistence farmers producing for home consumption, with those selling doing so at a very small scale. Most of the products sold are provided fresh from the field with little or no value addition.
To equip small-scale farmers with capacity to add value to produce, the Christian Aid, funded by the Scottish government, has launched an innovative project dubbed “Making agriculture a business’ aimed at helping farmers in the province gain some financial value from their agricultural produce.
“The programme will help improve the country’s farming condition by equipping small- scale farmers in Chisamba, Mumbwa, Kapiri Mposhi and Kabwe with skills,” Christian Aid (CA)/ Joint Country Programme (JCP) head of programmes Margaret Machila said during the launch in Kabwe recently.
And CA/ JCP country director Harald Sommer said the project, which is set to benefit over 4,000 farmers over a five-year period, will require the full participation of local communities, government agencies, the Church and cooperating partners in order to create sustainable agri-business and value chains.
During the launch, several key stakeholders, led by Government through the office of the permanent secretary, committed themselves to work on the project.
The project, which was formally launched on behalf of the Central Province Permanent Secretary Chanda Kabwe by government representative Brave Mazuba, is expected to contribute to the attainment of the Vision 2030 in which government desires to transform Zambia into a prosperous middle-income nation by 2030. It will specifically add to the national strategic areas of economic growth and wealth creation through transformation of agriculture from subsistence to sustainable agro-based enterprises that will ensure improved food security and increased income for the target group.
“This project will also help in creating an enabling environment for sustainable socio-economic development through advocating for gender equity and equality, particularly for women and the youth to enable them participate effectively in socio-economic development,” he said.
Mr Mazuba said agriculture is key to development and government will continue to encourage women, youth and men to participate in the sector.
Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ) executive director Karen Sichinga said the organisation, which will be the lead implementing partner in the project, is of the view that unless there is food security, the health of the community cannot be achieved.
“This is the reason why CHAZ has been involved in programmes that promote livelihood and food security and has worked closely with Christian Aid Zambia to support women through community microcredit and savings groups, and to promote business skills, entrepreneurship and market value chains,” she said.
Outlining the work to be done, CA/ JCP coordinator for economic empowerment Kingsley Cheelo said the project will support some of the poorest and most marginalised farmers with most of the beneficiaries being women and people living with disabilities.
Mr Cheelo said this is because socio-cultural barriers are disempowering women, leaving them unable to speak up for themselves or able to influence policy and practice.
“There is a huge gap between huge agro businesses and small scale subsistence farming which most people in Zambia depend on, with a noticeable absence of the medium sized agro business. Hence the project will help unlock the potential created by the gap through better linkages, value chains and negotiation skills for the small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs,” he said.
He said the ‘Making agriculture a business’ project will support local groups to develop renewable energy solutions such as solar-powered boreholes and refrigeration units. Solar-powered irrigation systems will also be developed, providing a less labour-intensive and more efficient use of water and helping to increase productivity among women farmers.
Emphasising the relevance of the project, Mr Cheelo said the organisation is proud to partner with the Scottish government and some higher institutions of learning from Scotland, and indeed local partners CHAZ who enjoy tremendous standing which will help it to succeed in this project. The bloodline of this project is the fact that the people and churches of Scotland are helping the people and churches of Zambia.
And programme advisor Charles Gay said generally, development aid from Scotland aims to empower partner countries, encourage new and historic relationships, support development assistance, engage people of Scotland in development work in Zambia, and also enhance global citizenship.
He added that the project will use a model that empowers people in different ways, including resource power, which is the ability to claim equal access to, and influence over, resources and services and knowledge.
Mr Gay further said the people will also be empowered with the ability to understand rights and entitlements and the knowledge and skills needed to attain them. And through harnessing their personal power of self-esteem, personal realisation and motivation this will ensure equality for all and they will be able to negotiate and claim rights and entitlements.
It is hoped that as productivity increases and the means to store the produce improves, farmers will have bargaining power at market, and project beneficiaries will have skills in business development, management and financial literacy.
MARGARET CHISANGA, Kabwe