By TEDDY KUYELA
GOVERNMENT has launched a US$115 million investment support fund (ISF) under the Irrigation Development and Support Project (IDSP).
This will enable Government to put 117,000 hectares of land under irrigation farming in the next five years.
Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Wylbur Simuusa said during the launch of the ISF in Lusaka yesterday that the US$115 million credit given to Zambia by the World Bank under the IDSP will enable the country to overhaul its irrigation sub-sector.
Mr Simuusa said the ISF will provide resources for on-farm capital investment to improveÂ productivity, quality and efficiency of irrigated agricultural activities across the country.
Government secured concessionary credit financing of US$115 million from the World Bank to implement a seven-year Irrigation Development Support Project under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
â€œWith a total loan financing budgetary allocation of US$15.6 million set aside, the ISF intends to achieve two key objectives. First is to enable small, medium and large-scale commercial public farming operators access conditional co-financing partial grants for investment capital and the other is to enhance generation of agro-economic activities by complementing provisions of irrigation bulk-water infrastructure in sub-projects,â€ Mr Simuusa said.
He also said the fund will support the procurement of irrigation equipment and assets such as sprinkler and furrow irrigation systems, tractors, oxen, ploughs, harrows and sprayers.
The minister also said the fund will further support the procurement of agricultural post-harvest, value adding, marketing equipment and assets such as combine harvesters, silos, ox-carts, trailers and dual-purpose vehicles.
Mr Simuusa said Government is happy with the fund because the countryâ€™s Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP) goal for the agriculture sector is to increase and diversify agricultural production and productivity so as to raise the share of its contribution to the gross domestic products by 2015.
â€œThis project will therefore bring together smallholders and agribusiness investors in shared irrigation schemes with complementary roads and power, contracted management of the irrigation and professional guidance to the smallholders in order to increase yield per hectare and value of diverse products marketed by both small and large holders benefitting from this IDSP,â€ he said.
And World Bank country director Kundhavi Kadiresan said the launch of the fund will ensure that agricultural production and crop diversification occurs throughout the year in Zambia.
Ms Kadiresan said the fund will also ensure that Zambiaâ€™s abundant water resource and arable land are used to the fullest and profitably to bring the countryâ€™s potential as a breadbasket to reality.
She urged farmers to take advantage of the fund to grow more food for local consumption and for export to help create wealth and employment opportunities for local people.
By TEDDY KUYELA