DOREEN NAWA, Mumbwa
WHILE farmers concentrate their effort on crops or livestock, they tend to get less profit. Their crops are in raw form. They have no higher value to attract more profit.
Experts say when farmers and entrepreneurs turn raw agricultural produce like vegetables or grains into a product of higher value like jam or bread they not only improve their income, but also contribute to community and rural economic development and enhance food choices for consumers.
Value-addition provides competitive opportunity to individual independent agricultural producers, groups of independent producers, producer-controlled entities, organisations representing agricultural producers, and farmer or rancher cooperatives to create or develop value-added producer-owned businesses.
Value addition is what lacks in Zambia, Mumbwa inclusive and many other rural agriculture-hubs in Zambia.
Mumbwa is one of Zambiaâ€™s agro giants but its potential has been limited because of numerous factors which include access to the market, inadequate storage facilities, and lack of industries to enhance value-addition.
Immediate-past Mumbwa Central MMD member of Parliament Brian Chituwo said agricultural production is one of the most important economic sectors in the majority of African countries including Zambia.
Dr Chituwo says it is estimated that over 90 percent of Mumbwaâ€™s population relies on agriculture for its livelihood, yet value-addition in this sector still remains untapped in most of Zambiaâ€™s rural populace.
Dr Chituwo, who is also former minister of Health says history illustrates that agriculture, particularly the developed agribusiness and agro-industry sectors, has been the driver of economic growth in countries across the globe for example, Brazil and China.
â€œScaling up agribusiness could be the next growth frontier not only for Mumbwa but the country as a whole.
He said if agribusiness is given priority, it could offer immediate value addition through commodity-based industrialisation that exploits forward and backward linkages with the rest of the economy.
â€œSuch industrialisation could lift many rural dwellers out of poverty while creating jobs across the economy,â€ Dr Chituwo says.
Agro-experts say in Zambia, agribusiness and agro-industries account for less than 30 percent of national income as well as the bulk of export revenues and employment.
And newly-elected Mumbwa Central MP, Credo Nanjuwa says several key opportunities are within reach in agribusiness.
Mr Nanjuwa says the underlying premise of diversification of sources of growth should curb the pattern of overreliance on primary commodities to generate export revenues.
â€œThe cry for industrialisation in agriculture is not lacking only in Mumbwa. Itâ€™s actually countrywide. Zambia could exploit several opportunities to overcome existing challenges facing agribusiness. Despite possessing as one of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)â€™s largest reservoir of unused arable land and water of about 60 percent, Zambia has not fully exploited its agricultural productivity by allowing agricultural industrialisation to flourish,â€ he said.
Mr Nanjuwa said Zambia has the land and enough water resources to spur its agriculture and feed the region and beyond but lack of value addition of agricultural produce has hindered its agriculture development.
â€œZambia can feed itself and the rest of Africa. It is well endowed and has the markets. But it needs more than good technology policies. Scaling up productivity means tapping water resources for irrigation, providing stable prices while doing away with artificial subsidies,â€ Mr Nanjuwa said.
Mr Nanjuwa said Zambia needs to use seeds with better yields, providing basic transport infrastructure, providing incentives for financial institutions to invest in agriculture as much as in commercial farming, and developing a profitable and competitive agribusiness sector.
By drawing on lessons from other regions such as Asia, Argentina and Brazil, Zambia can turn its fortunes around gradually.
He said Mumbwaâ€™s population growth has to be turned into an asset adding that youths alone in Mumbwa constitute over a quarter of the areaâ€™s labour force.
Mr Nanjuwa said considering the population growth and urbanisation in Mumbwa, agribusiness holds the key to meeting urban consumersâ€™ demand for food, particularly processed food.
â€œWith Zambiaâ€™s steady population growth, other emerging towns countrywide will also increase demand for farm commodities from Mumbwa and other agriculture-hubs countrywide,â€ he said.
There is vast potential for establishing production and trade links, as well as synergies between different actors along the entire agribusiness value chain (producers, processors and exporters), through the provision of incentives that bolster private sector investments and encourage the competitiveness necessary to meet consumer requirements for price, quality and standards.
The shift from primary production to modern integrated agribusiness will provide lucrative opportunities to many smallholder farmers, the majority of whom are women, as well as creating jobs for the countryâ€™s youths not only in Mumbwa but Zambia as a whole.
Another Mumbwa farmer, Judy Haanziba says growing opportunities for investment in agriculture infrastructure in Mumbwa will help overcome the current challenges associated with poor access between farm-level production and downstream activities, such as processing and marketing.
She said investment in agriculture infrastructure opens the door to increasing the production of higher agricultural value-added products.
Ms Haanziba said rapidly changing demands and technologies mean that Zambia can power its way through the technological revolution in agriculture.
â€œFor so long, we have been very comfortable with the way we have traditionally handled agricultural produce. In Mumbwa and countrywide, most fruits, vegetables and other foods are eaten fresh and any leftovers are immediately thrown away.
â€œSince we have been endowed with good weather that hardly reaches either extremes, we have never felt the urgency before to consume food in an efficient manner, let alone preserve it,â€ Mrs Haanziba says.
Value-addition in agriculture has been touted as the solution to the problems facing farmers and rural residents.
Experts say if farmers get to add value to their produce through processing, there will be an increase in income and reduce financial stress which will lead to the revitalisation of rural communities.
DOREEN NAWA, Mumbwa