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MAJORITY of Zambian farmers, particularly small-scale farmers, have very low levels of mechanisation and usually depend on hand tools and rudimentary implements for cultivation

Rural farmers get $12.5 million

AN AGRICULTURAL company will roll out 5,000 banking booths worth US$12.5 million to enhance financial inclusion for farmers in rural areas.
The project is designed to empower small-scale farmers in rural Zambia because the agricultural economy is a vital contributor country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and a cornerstone for many farmer’s improved livelihoods.
Schweitzer Agriculture executive director Joas Chihangu said in a statement that the banking booths are set to provide employment for many youths as 5,000 young entrepreneurs are being targeted to be trained in digital banking.
“This initiative is a way of empowering young people with jobs, linking small-scale and emerging farmers with working capital, matching grants, guaranteed markets, and value addition,” Mr Chihangu said
He said the youth will further be assisted to graduate to small and medium enterprises.
The digital banking booths, expected to be rolled out in the next three to five years, will initially be in five provinces.
Mr Chihangu said the programme is in tandem with the organisation’s commitment to ensuring agricultural productivity among small-scale farmers.
“We remain focused on empowering farmers in rural Zambia. One of the ways the company is doing so is through the roll-out of Aid for TradeTM booths,” he said.
Aid for Trade is a smallholder agricultural loan on a prepaid plastic Visa or MasterCard service for Schweitzer Agriculture, managed by Kachi Agri Micro Finance Limited in partnership with financial institutions, insurance firms, and pension houses.
Each card will come pre-loaded with points that can be redeemed at certain hubs for inputs such as seed, fertiliser, agro-chemicals, irrigation kits, small tractors or supplies, as well as livestock.
The intention is to allow a cooperative of 20 members, including women and youths, to start transitioning from small-scale to mechanised farming of up to 30 hectares.
“The goal is to deploy, on average, 11,900 to 15,500 HP low-cost hand-held tractors easily operated by women,” Mr Chihangu said.
And at an Aid for TradeTM event where Schweitzer Agriculture presented a mock booth to United Bank for Africa, Mr Chihangu said Schweitzer is developing digital solutions for unbanked small-scale farmers, such as Electronic Warehouse Receipts (eWHRs)
He said eWHRs is linked to a collateral manager to support financial inclusion and empower farmers with advanced working capital and payment technology.
“This will result in less dependency on aid or subsidies from Government. It guarantees more national economic growth,” Mr Chihangu said.
According to the 2020 FinScope report, only 20.7 percent of Zambia’s adult population has access to banking services, and this translates to 1.9 million people.
Mr Chihangu also said the initiative will increase cooperating partners, farm input suppliers and financial service providers’ presence and take digital financial services to rural areas.