Republican Vice President Dr Guy Scott has attributed the limitations in the agriculture sector to failure by the farmers to recognize its potential as a worthwhile business practice that can make them a lot of money.
Dr Scott challenged farmers to change their approach to farming as it was a viable business to improve their financial status.He said many farmers did not look at farming as a viable business to make money, which was why agriculture has failed to attain its full potential as the country’s economic driver after mining. He was speaking during the High Level Policy Forum on Agriculture breakfast meeting organised by various civil society organisations (CSOs) to create consensus and craft reform framework that would benefit small scale holder farmers in the African Union declared year of agriculture.
“Of course we are exporting maize, that is why we grow it because we want to make money, tobacco production is about 30 000 tonnes per year, and cotton too is within striking distance of achieving economic impact requirement,” said Dr Scott
The stakeholders which included CSO-Scaling Up Nutrition (CSOSUN), Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD), Indaba for Agriculture Policy and Research Institute (IAPRI) and Agriculture Consultative Forum (ACF) and the government through the Minister of Agriculture Wilbar Simuusa and his deputy Greyford Moonde.
“This multi-stakeholder Agriculture Policy forum with a theme – “Revitalising Agriculture in Zambia towards the 2024 AU Year of Agriculture- Changing the way we do Agric in Zambia” convenes government, farmers, agribusinesses, civil society organisations and development partners.
The goal of the forum is to bring stakeholders together to come to consensus on recommended policy reforms that will benefit millions of smallholder farmers – particularly rural households – and numerous small-and-medium-sized agribusinesses in Zambia,” CSO-SUN national coordinator William Chilufya said.
And Small scale farmers have called on government to introduce a policy that would guard against imported products which are usually very cheap to the disadvantage of local farmers. And a small scale farmer from Chinchi Wababili Women Diary Farmers Cooperative, Ms Grace Tepula said high production costs coupled with lack of a proper road network and absence of agriculture extension officers in rural areas have contributed to the many challenges faced by non-commercial farmers countrywide.
Ms Tepula said most farmers have failed to improve the scope of their trade because of lack of access to market and failure to compete with imported produce on the local market.
“We have seen upgrading of major roads in many places around the country, but now we still remain with the challenge of bad feeder roads that lead to the actual farms in the rural areas.
“It is very costly and sometimes impossible for the farmers to transport their produce to the various selected market places, and they end up selling off at very minimal prices,” she said. Ms Tepula explained that even the absence of agriculture officers to attend to problems of diseases and farming challenges in rural areas was a huge hindrance to progress in the sector.
She said many farmers in Ndola rural, for instance did not have ready access to high marketplaces which could benefit them financially, but instead opted to sell their milk, meats and vegetables at the local village markets.