NOMSA NKANA, Lusaka
SMALLHOLDER farmers in Zambia have been urged to apply interventions such as irrigation and mechanised farming, among others, to improve production levels and incomes.
Agriculture Financial (AgriFin) Accelerated Programme director Leesa Shrader called on farmers to engage in crop diversification, investment in irrigation and other forms of mechanised farming to improve production levels to diversify income sources.
Ms Shrader, however, said in a speech on Tuesday that farmers face a myriad of challenges such as unfavourable weather conditions (frequent drought and only one rainy season) which result in low production levels and limited annual income.
Others are lack of information, incentive structures and the necessary resources to promote better agronomic practices. Therefore, farmers are focused on primary production where there is virtually no value addition.
â€œAlthough these challenges are to a large extent uncontrollable, with the right resources, the farmers can themselves mitigate some of them,â€ she said.
There is over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture and mono-cropping practices with majority of farmers growing maize, partly because Government provides a guaranteed market.
On the other hand, Ms Shrader said service providers who serve the farmers also face challenges with the biggest issue being the problem of last mile delivery due to the low density population in Zambia which makes it very costly to deliver both financial and non-financial services to rural populations.
â€œAs a result, we see low uptake of existing services and overall poor management in the sector by major service providers including banks,â€ she said.
In addition, Ms Shrader said some government policies such as input subsidies and the maize export ban cripple private sector actors and do not promote a sustainable market.
â€œAlthough significant, these challenges present an opportunity to support smallholder farmers and facilitate the potential for Zambia to be a breadbasket in the region,â€ she said.
NOMSA NKANA, Lusaka