ZAMBIA National Farmers Union (ZNFU) and the European Union (EU) signed a four-year implementation project worth K85785.984m designed to construct four new agriculture service centres in Zambia.
The project will see the construction of new agriculture centres in Chibombo, Mpongwe, Lundazi and Mbala to improve small-scale farmers’ access to reliable supply of fairly priced inputs.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, ZNFU president Evelyn Nguleka said the project would solve some of the problems faced by farmers.
Dr Nguleka said it was unfortunate that farmers had increased productivity while markets have remained a big challenge.
“Some problems faced by farmers are going to be met through this intervention that has come at a timely moment when the Zambian farmers have become real farmers. When we have increased our productivity our markets have still remained a challenge,” she said.
And ZNFU executive director Ndambo Ndambo said the project was expected to benefit over 90, 000 small-scale farmers.
Mr Ndambo said most private sector players were unable to develop appropriate marketing infrastructure in farming areas due to lack of long term capital financing and high business risks.
He said the four centers would also improve commodity prices and reduce input costs for small-scale farmers.
“ZNFU intends to continue earning your confidence by ensuring unending innovations and practical solutions and services that help farmers come out of poverty,” he said.
Mr Ndambo said the EU and other cooperating partners had contributed to the Zambian farmers for decades now.
Meanwhile, outgoing EU head of delegation to Zambia Ambassador Gilles Hervio said the project would improve Zambian small-scale farmers’ access to agriculture input and output markets, productive assets and services.
Ambassador Hervio said the EU had decided to work r in Zambia’s energy, good governance and agriculture sectors over the next seven years.
He said two more new projects to support agriculture were on the line and one of them would cost Euros 10 million and would be signed soon.
He said the project would be operated by agribusiness and private service provider selected on a competitive basis.
“These centres will benefit both large and small-scale farmers; we expect that through this programme 90, 000 small-scale farmers will be able to afford and access fairly priced inputs,” he said.
The ambassador hoped that farmers would increase their production and increase income and livelihood.
He said out of the two already existing projects funded by the union, a large amount of money-more than Euros 80 million-was still available.
“The agriculture service centre programme should also increase policy influence and lobbying capacity of farmers’ organizations for better policy reforms,” he said.