MIKE MUGALA, Solwezi
ABBY Chabala is a happy fish farmer and he can look back and muse at how his life has been transformed empowered by the Smallholder Agri-business Promotion Programme (SAPP).
He is a beneficiary of the SAPP which empowered him and the challenges of finances are now a thing of the past.
â€œI am able to pay school fees for my children and at the same time support my family,â€ he says.
Chabala is chairman of Pakayeloba Co-operative which is involved in fingerling production.
The co-operative can produce up to 60,000 fingerlings every year for sale to various farmers in Solwezi, Chavuma, Zambezi, Kabompo and Mwinilunga.
The Smallholder Agribusiness Promotion Programme (SAPP) is an agribusiness development programme of Government with the support of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The goal of the programme is to increase the income levels of poor rural households, involved in production, value addition and enhancing trade in agricultural commodities.
For all this, the SAPP seeks to increase the volume and value of agribusiness of small-scale producers, like Mr Chabala.
Improved productivity and commercialisation of farmer enterprises is at the core of each commodity being supported by the programme. The programme intends to reach approximately 30,000 small-scale farming households who are organised in enterprise groups or who have the potential to join groups that can be linked to markets.
The target group includes households who already devote part of their efforts to market-oriented production and need to be assisted by improving their marketing operations, and diversification of production, processing and value-adding.
It is envisaged that through this programme, income levels of the small-scale farmers will increase through production, value adding and trade of agricultural commodities.
Within a duration of seven years, SAPP has a total budget of US$25.5 million, with a highly-concessional loan from IFAD of US$20 million and co-financing from the government and beneficiaries of US$3.5 million, a Swedish grant of US$1.0 million and Finnish grant US$1.0 million).
SAPP is working with entire value chains, from input suppliers through to end users, with the aim of improving the economic surplus generated by the value chain, by identifying areas where efficiency, productivity and quality can be improved.
The key instrument being used is the effective development and participation of poor rural households in the value chains of selected agricultural commodities.
The programme has three components; (i) the programme at the moment is working in 11 value chains throughout the country. The value chains being supported include small livestock (goat, pig, and free range chicken), beef, aquaculture, common beans, cassava, groundnuts, rice, mushroom and cotton.
The Programme Financing Agreement was signed on January 20, 2010 and declared effective the same day and it is scheduled to complete implementation of its activities by March 31, 2017 and close by September 30, 2017.
The programme was also designed to resolve financial constraints in cases where financing was a challenge among value chain players using a Matching Grant Facility (MGF) where value chains players in the selected commodities develop a business plan with key emphasis on how smallholder farmers will benefit by supporting such a business plan.
The MGF serves as seed capital to encourage capital investments and/or innovations, along different links of the selected value chain pegged at about US$6 million.
As of September 30, 2016, a total of 376 grants had been approved with a total investment of US$3.92 million IFAD contribution. It is estimated that a total of 145,305 beneficiaries, 48 percent of which are women, will benefit from this investment.
SAPP has supported capacity building of groups to help them submit better proposals and strengthened the skills of the district appraisal committees which has improved the success rate of proposals.
And another beneficiary Brightson Muchima of Zambezi who is involved in vegetable production, said he has learned of improved farming methods through his interaction with different farmers.
â€œMy group and I are now financially stable. We have been saving our money so that we can buy fertiliser and other inputs that are needed during the course of our farming. I would urge SAPP to roll out this programme to all the rural areas across the country in order to empower peasant farmers,â€ he said.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock permanent secretary David Shamulenge said Government will prioritise small and medium agribusiness and livestock entrepreneurs in order to promote economic diversification and uplift the status of small holder farmers
Dr Shamulenge said Government will also continue promoting the growth of small and medium agribusiness and livestock farmers in order to promote the growth of the livestock sector.
â€œAs Government, we are trying to move away from infrastructure development and promote livestock rearing, we want to implement projects that will directly benefit the people.
We are very much alive to the fact that the livestock sector has potential to become the countryâ€™s biggest income generator and as Government, we will continue investing in small agribusiness projects so as to promote economic growth,â€ he said.
He said investing in small agribusiness and livestock projects will improve peopleâ€™s access to finance and empowerment.
MIKE MUGALA, Solwezi