Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
DURING the national harvest day at Wisdom Mababe’s farm, Chief Kaindu’s area in Mumbwa, President Edgar Lungu reiterated the saying Zambia has the potential to feed Africa.However, President Lungu wondered how long Zambians are going to be talking about this potential.
He talked about the need to take pragmatic action to actualise this potential, and time to do that is now.
“We just have to do it for the good of our country. There is no need for this country to experience hunger because God gave us all that it takes for a country to prosper,” President Lungu said.
He said Government cannot be part of this rhetoric on Zambia’s potential and will instead drive this practically to unlock the potential the country has in agriculture.
Economist Chibamba Kanyama says there are many things the country can do to actualise the potential.
Mr Kanyama said security of tenure for land is a sure way of enhancing productivity in this God given resource.
“Land ownership should be easily accessible and allocated ownership certificate to all people, including foreign investors seeking to exploit the land resource. Women in particular have been denied the opportunity to own land in their individual names and yet are the most productive in terms of land utilisation and agriculture in general. When there is uncertainty in terms of ownership of such an asset, the outlays of investments are limited,” Mr Kanyama said.
He said productivity per acre of land is far lower in Zambia compared to other countries around it. “Malawi for example is twice more productive in terms of yields per acre of land than Zambia. Given the poor agriculture methods where we focus more on quantum of land under cultivation and less on quality of yields is affecting our international competitiveness,” Mr Kanyama said.
He said it means for the same cost of producing same quantity as another country, Zambian farmers have less to offer the market.
“The only way to make up for the cost is increase in prices and this makes our produce less competitive on international markets. We, therefore, need strengthened skilling of peasant farmer across the country. When we produce more per hector, we dwarf the costs, earn more and in the long run able to invest in weather friendly technologies including water harvesting,” Mr Kanyama said.
He also said the country has very greedy and unscrupulous middlemen in the marketing value chain of agriculture produce.
In an environment where middlemen are just there to make quick wins, there is no smart agriculture. “We should know that the success of agriculture is dependent on knowledge sharing along the value chain such as knowing the going product at a given point in time, the prevailing and future prices as well as sources for cheaper inputs. This rarely happens in Zambia,” Mr Kanyama explained.
He said South Africans now utilise international networks to source information about prevailing marketing opportunities in the region.
“This is why established farmers can use futures markets to lock in prices and also find off-takers for their produce. It is not only commodities like copper that thrive under such markets of off-takers and future selling. Maize, tobacco, wheat, soyabeans can penetrate international markets if match-makers or middlemen were more focused on business for all rather than making a kill for self,” Mr Kanyama says.
He wants the country to leverage the continental commodities fairs and shows.
Last year, he was privileged to attend the SADC Industrialisation Week held in Windhoek, Namibia, and was pleased to visit a stand by the Food Reserve Agency coordinated by Zambia Development Agency.
“It is in such markets you expose your products to the international market. Let us pursue larger markets such as Nigeria and Kenya. We can easily flood these markets if we exposed ourselves in an efficient and timely manner. It is good Government is supporting these initiatives and I pray the current austerity measures will not reduce funding for such programmes,” Mr Kanyama says.
He says the potential that Zambia has is undoubtedly immense and has been talked about a great many times especially in the agricultural sector.
“We do not only have vast land but we also have favourable climatic conditions and a good number of perennial water bodies that are key for improved agriculture productivity. The need to act pragmatically cannot be over-emphasised as over dependence on the mining sector has proven to be inadequate in terms of delivering foreign exchange and economic development consistently,” Mr Kanyama said.
He said the pragmatic action needed is to enhance the agricultural sector through diversification of agricultural produce that has high value instead of just focusing on traditional crops.
“The diversification of crops must also be done strategically based on climatic conditions in the different regions and promote the best crops suited in those regions. The creation of the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries is also key and there is need to equally promote the livestock and fisheries sector which can help foster the meeting of local and regional demand,” Mr Kanyama said.
He said the value addition ought to be promoted across all the sectors and industries. We have cried foul as a country for selling our unprocessed minerals and other produce at low prices. Increased value addition is the only direction that will help create jobs and improve the earnings we get from our produce in the mining and agricultural sectors.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.
Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO