ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka
THE European Union (EU) and the Zambia National Farmersâ€™ Union (ZNFU) have signed a â‚¬14.8 million project to construct agricultural service centres in selected districts.
EU is providing about â‚¬12.7 million towards the project while ZNFU is contributing â‚¬2.1 million.
The financing will help upgrade two exiting centres in Choma and Mumbwa while four new centres will be established in Chibombo, Mpongwe, Lundazi, and Mbala.
Out-going head of EU delegation to Zambia and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Gilles Hervio said during the four-year implementation period, ZNFU will oversee the project activities.
At a signing ceremony on Friday, Mr Hervio said the centres will enable farmersâ€™ access to modern marketing infrastructure, obtain competitive prices for their produce and improve supply of fairly priced inputs, among others.
â€œThese centres will be leased to and operated by agribusinesses and private service providers selected on a competitive basis. By alleviating part of the commercial risks, an incentive will be created for private operators to run these one-stop shops.
â€œTwo projects were noted in Brussels recently to support the agriculture sector in Zambia.
â€œThe first one of â‚¬10 million to support the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and I hope that the financing agreement can be signed soon and the second project of â‚¬12.7 million to support ZNFU,â€ he said.
Mr Hervio said EU still has over â‚¬80 million to support the agriculture sector besides the funding for the two projects.
He also said that Government has an important role to play in developing policies that encourages investment in infrastructure, research, monitor production, creating markets and making space for private sector to operate.
Earlier, ZNFU executive director Ndambo Ndambo said the project will also support a feasibility study for the establishment of a trading platform at Kasumbalesa on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
â€œZNFU and the Zambian farming community is happy as another brick has been laid on the wall aimed at consolidating ZNFU and EUâ€™s pursuit for sustainable agricultural linkages and private sector partnerships to improve farmersâ€™ access to input and output markets,â€ Mr Ndambo said.
ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka