AGRICULTURE plays a crucial role in any country’s economic development and is cardinal for the enhancement of food security and poverty alleviation.
This is a sector which has of late involved massive modern technology, especially at global level, aimed at maximising food production.
In Zambia as well as a number of countries on the African continent, not much progress has been made towards embracing modern technology because the majority are poor peasant farmers who lack the required resources to develop their agro projects.
Apart from that, farmers are faced with various complex challenges such as climate change, market and price instability and imbalances in the food chain process.
They e also face limited access to finance and a lack of a reliable market for their produce.
In Zambia, for instance, peasant farmers are the ones who contribute significantly to the country’s food security through bumper harvests which have been experienced in the past seasons.
Local farmers who have potential to produce more food should have done even better than this if they had been availed resources and technological assistance.
This assistance should be in form of financial empowerment to ensure the Zambian agriculture sector remained a success story.
Recent observations by the visiting German Farmers Association vice-president Werner Schwarz that Zambian farmers were in need of empowerment if the sector was to be successful should be taken
seriously by the Government, Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) and all the stakeholders.
There is need for the Government in particular to empower local farmers so that they can enhance food production through provision of tailor-made technology.
The Government should avail them affordable loans so that they can acquire farm machinery such as ploughs, hand-operated tractors and irrigation equipment.
Farmers from as far as Shang’ombo in Western Province, for example, most of whom have had challenges to access inputs, would do well if given appropriate modern farming technology and training.
As Mr Swartz has pointed out, agriculture is key for any country’s success and should, therefore, remain priority and crucial to the Government’s development policy.
The sector should, in addition, be backed by a reliable political framework as well as strong and independent farmer associations which can lead to a successful agro sector.
Unlike farmers in the developing world who are faced with limited land, Zambian farmers are gifted with enough land and plenty of water that only needs the empowerment of players to develop.
Success of the Zambian agriculture sector will lead the way in the country’s economic diversification initiatives that it needs to strengthen not only the economy but also the local currency which has
most of the time remained vulnerable in the face of other strong international currencies such as the American dollar.
Zambia is bound to become an agricultural power house in the Southern African region should the Government consider empowering local farmers.
This will encourage the establishment of agro processing industries for value-addition and increase exports to the international market.
Maximised exports will help to strengthen the Kwacha, create more employment opportunities as well as assist in poverty alleviation.