DOREEN NAWA, Lusaka
AS more and more young farmers ignite sparks in rural communities, a new generation of ideas has begun to sprout in Kazungula, Mungwi and Choma areas.
These young farmers are content with their lives in rural areas and their desire to relocate to urban cities is fading.
The rural people not just aim towards the improvement of living conditions and the activation of agriculture as a business, but also extend the vision to ecological conservation of the surroundings.
Under the activation of rural transformation through improved agriculture activities, rural communities in Mungwi, Kazungula and Choma district have gradually separated themselves from the stereotype of poverty and ruin.
Many of them are undergoing successful transformation and have become popular spots of ecological conservation. Ecological conservation deals with the preservation and management of biodiversity and natural resources.
Young people are now enjoying the rural lifestyle by listening to the whispering breeze, feeling the air dancing on the chest, tasting fresh local agricultural products and learning profound cultural heritage.
The comprehensive economy is taking root on these rural areas little by little.
This experience has given hope to many young people who had plans to relocate to urban cities like Lusaka and other towns along the line of rail.
Florence Simasiku, a 30-year-old cassava farmer of Kapongolo village in Mungwi says her thought of relocating to Lusaka or any other city on the Copperbelt has died out because of the increased agriculture productivity.
“I have always admired living in the cities because of the good roads, better social amenities like schools, hospitals and better sanitation facilities. But from the time I learnt better methods of farming, my yield has improved and I am making more money. This has created a sense of contentment and I no longer think of relocating,” Ms Simasiku says.
For Ms Simasiku, she now can afford buying clothes and meeting her daily needs, all because she is producing enough for sale and consumption.
She has been motivated to remain in the village as opposed to relocating to the city like she has earlier thought.
“We need a thriving agriculture sector that can sustainably intensify its production and cater to the needs of an increasing urban population and the demand for more livestock products, such as eggs and meat. Until then, it will be difficult to convince many young people that you can make it in life anywhere, you don’t need to migrate to cities,” Ms Simasiku says.
Young people in particular, believe that better opportunities await them in cities, “a better life” so to speak.
Only a few of them like Kawewa Kawewa 31, of Sikaunzwe area in Kazungula district consider that cities cannot cope with the increasing levels of rural to urban migration.
Cities do not have the adequate infrastructure, energy, electricity, water or healthcare, to satisfy demand for jobs, housing and other basic needs.
Not to mention the already skyrocketing unemployment figures that can be seen in many urban areas.
As most rural to urban migrants are uneducated and unskilled, they tend to find work in the informal sector where conditions of service are pathetic.
But for Gloria Hamweemba, 30 a young livestock farmer of Choma, there is need to figure out how to encourage young people to stay in rural areas.
“Government must work hard to provide prospects for youths living in rural areas. As youths, we are doing our best to change our lives but we need Government to help transform rural areas in order to keep us here,” Mrs Hamweemba says.
For Mrs Hamweemba, the much needed help from Government must include increased public investments in mechanisation and new digital technologies.
Improved infrastructure to facilitate access to markets in nearby towns and cities, access to finance for farmers to grow businesses is also paramount in ensuring success in rural development
While urbanisation is important and often seen as a sign of economic development, it has implications for rural transformation and for food and nutrition security.
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) president Gilbert Houngbo says agriculture and rural development are the best answer to migration of people from the countryside to urban areas.
For Mr Houngbo said the need for Zambia and Africa as a whole to come up with policies that will prioritise rural transformation is the way forward.
Currently, a considerably high number of migrants move within their countries, mainly from rural to urban areas or from one rural area to another, in search of better livelihoods because most rural areas are underdeveloped.
Migration can have positive and negative impacts on rural livelihoods and food security, and currently, migrants, who are mainly adult youths, are a potential resource for agriculture and rural development as well as poverty reduction in their areas of origin.
“The migration of rural youths can result in loss of an important share of the most vital and dynamic part of the workforce, with obvious consequences for agricultural productivity.
Moreover, migration is reshaping the traditional social and economic structure of rural areas mainly dependent on agriculture,” Mr Houngbo says.
Mr Houngbo says there is urgent need for a policy that promotes agriculture and rural development.
“In particular, policies aiming to reduce migration of rural youths should factor in the need to generate viable options for rural youths in farm and non-farm activities,” he said.
Lombe village headman, John Lombe of Kasama’s Lwabwe area says development of rural social services has various effects on rural-urban migration.
Better rural education, which improves the chances of urban employment, will stimulate rural-urban migration, while successful rural agriculture programmes will guarantee food security.
“Better rural health services also reduce the chances of rural-urban migration as well.
“I suggest that governments should reconsider policies which rely on rural development to curb rural-urban migration and alleviate problems of urban poverty and underemployment,” headman Lombe says.
With the right policies in place, Zambia’s agricultural sector can help solve the chronic socio-economic challenges of food insecurity, poverty and unemployment the rural populace face thereby forcing them to relocate to urban cities.