BENEDICT TEMBO, Lusaka
CHINTU Nanja, a poultry farmer of Chongwe has a good reason to be proud; she has learnt how to produce mushroom and soybeans, among others, using better technology.
Thanks to the overseas training on agricultural production techniques course by the Jilin Agricultural University of China and the University of Zambia (UNZA) which she says was a great eye-opener.
“The knowledge I have gained will help me practice farming in a more sustainable way,” she said.
Ms Nanja was among 85 participants drawn from all over Zambia who benefitted from the September 20 to October 19, 2018 course in Lusaka sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
The training covered the high-yield soya cultivation, edible fungi cultivation, prevention and control of animal diseases, Chinese participatory poverty alleviation, plant pest control, aquaculture farming, development of edible and medicinal fungi and local chicken breeding.
“The lessons I have learnt here will help me take care of my poultry in a more professional way,” she said.
Ms Nanja, 34, currently has about 300 black Astrolope layer chickens, several village chickens, guinea fowls and broilers, and is happy that she has learnt to farm more profitably with the available resources and will thus increase production.
She is a versatile farmer whose activities include incubation of eggs, selling of day-old chicks to fellow farmers and supplying chickens to those who want to improve their breeds as well as supplying eggs.
“I have loved farming from childhood, I studied agricultural science at secondary school. However, I started my poultry farm three years ago and have managed to acquire a 10 hectare farm where we want to expand production,” Ms Nanja said.
Besides being a farmer, Ms Nanja is a corporate aviation specialist as well as an alumni of the Youth Alliance Leaders Initiative (YALI).
“We have started a community group in Chongwe focusing on young women and helping them to find various entrepreneurship skills,” she said
As a beneficiary of the Chinese government generosity, Ms Nanja has pledged to share the knowledge from the course with the community in which she farms.
“We will transfer the knowledge we have gained here through the community groups in order to empower these women at various levels. Currently, I have 15 women that I am mentoring in entrepreneurship and with this knowledge, we will include mentorship and training in agriculture,” she said.
The group is currently focusing on women “because we want to empower them and make them realise that they, too, can be independent and support their families and community at large.”
A mother of two children, a boy aged 15 years and a seven-year-old girl, Ms Nanja calls herself ‘the farmer in heels’ because despite being able to get into the poultry house or chicken run and be hands-on, she still manages to be in high heeled shoes and be corporate.
“I balance the two very well and adapt very well in every situation without difficult. I am sure when you meet me for the first time, you would not know that I am a farmer until you meet me in the chicken run in gum boots,” she says.
Ms Nanja said: “As Mandela once said, there is little to be said in favour of poverty, but it was often an incubator of true friendship. Many people will appear to befriend you when you are wealthy, but precious few will do the same when you are poor.”
It is for this reason that she got closer to the under-privileged in society to empower them through mentorship and hands-on knowledge so that they too could be able to fend for themselves.
“Together, we can reduce on absolute dependence on those that are seemingly doing well,” she said.
For Japhet Kinji, a teacher in Kasempa district, the course has re-awakened his initial willpower to go the agricultural route he chose from the onset.
Mr Kinji has vowed to move away from those who know but fold their hands to the group of those who know and are willing to do something.
“As if this is not enough, the seminar has really challenged me to double my efforts beyond any reasonable doubt in motivating my pupils and friends and shaping our future in line with the Vision 2030,” Mr Kinji, who has been teaching Agriculture Science for five years, said.
Lloyd Kathumba, a farm manager at Jiwundu Breeding Centre in Kalumbila district said the course came at the right time and it will yield great benefits for his employers and the community in Chief Musele’s area.
China-Aid Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre in Zambia director Zhang Yuejie said Jilin Agriculture University took into consideration the actual training needs of the Zambian trainees.
Dr Zhang who is also Jilin Agricultural University vice-president, said he hopes the course can effectively promote bilateral cooperation in agriculture production techniques.
Political counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in Lusaka Lai Bo said the course was part of the implementation of the ‘Eight Major Initiatives’ formulated at the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in China last month.
University of Zambia vice-chancellor Luke Mumba was elated by the training programme.
“It is a means of technology transfer, which to both assistant officers and farmers brings about an increase in the knowledge, which leads to better performance and finally leads to an increase of income and improvement of livelihoods,” he said.
Professor Mumba said programmes such as the just-ended course also reveal and solidify the Sino-Zambia cooperation.
BENEDICT TEMBO, Lusaka