Local ‘brands’ to enhance local economic growth
Published On May 22, 2024 » 460 Views» By Times Reporter » Business, Columns
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BUILDING on last week’s discourse around the importance of having robust local economic development to jumpstart rural districts, this week I will look at building brands around major economic activities.
To achieve economic development at local levels there is need to move away from the ‘colonial’ concept of a district being identified from political administration and governance perspective to more of an economic hub.
All the 116 districts have diverse and unique massive but untapped economic potentialities which need to be marketed and enhanced to drive local people out of poverty while reducing rural-to-urban migration which is rampant in the country.
Policies should be tailored towards branding and identifying economic offerings in a given district rather than ‘reinventing the wheel’.
From the look of things any crop can sell looking at the current changing demand curve due to changing and diverse consumption patterns.
What is needed is the heightened production aspects and some marketing to promote an agriculture product into a national and later a regional ‘brand’.
For example Mongu is built around Mongu rice which should be sustained by upping production of rice so that the district lives up to those already built brands.
All the empowerment should go towards increasing production of rice so that the Mongu brand is sold beyond borders thereby building a strong economy.
Local people talk good about the Mongu rice brand as if it is the best rice type in the world which should be emulated to enhance local economic development.
In that vein, there is a need to deploy processing equipment that can enable Mongu rice to live up to its promise of the best brand.
Apart from the input hustle for small scale farmers, lack of up-to-date processing facilities have been a major challenge for them to remain competitive among strong foreign and local brands.
It is encouraging that National Milling under the Mother’s Pride brand which has unmatched processing capabilities has adopted the brand and distributed the commodity countrywide which has continued gaining traction.
What is remaining is increasing participation of local farmers.
It is hoped that the corn processing giant has developed a stout out-grower scheme to enable local people who are the owners and originators of the brand to benefit.
Another region which can be used as an example is how Luapula has become a ‘cassava built’ where the tuber is grown thereby attracting even beverage giants like Zambia Breweries which started buying cassava for the production of lagers.
Unlike other places, the local people take pride in selling cassava and use it in place of maize meal thereby creating a local concrete market base.
As you enter the province from Chembe, roasted cassava is sold along the roads to demonstrate to the visiting public what to expect.
Hammer mills are always seen busy processing cassava into mealie-meal which are consumed locally with the surplus being taken to the Copperbelt for onward consumption thereby creating a robust value chain although at a dwarfed level.
In laying a local economic development policy foundation or framework, there is a need to check on what is already on the ground to build on and perfect the way local ‘economies’ are run.
Apart from marketing the economic potentialities of the districts that should be done alongside enhancing production so that as the demand grows, supply is also expanded.
As a measure to further encourage production, there is a need for the Government to position farmers for growth by helping them with improved cassava that can withstand the disease and viruses that have been causing havoc to cassava fields.
Tubers are rotting at an alarming stage resulting in affecting production while drawing back the cassava commercialisation momentum.
Researchers need to rise to the challenge and find a lasting solution to this disease burden so that the ongoing cassava commercialisation drive is not slowed.
The other district that has been attracting my attention is Mwinilunga, the land of pineapples because you cannot mention the name without the name pineapple clicking in.
The district is naturally branded around the juice producing fruit which is encouraging as it gives an assurance of the ready market.
Nearly each and every household reportedly grows pineapple.
It is a household name and the momentum will keep growing with the reopening of the pineapple processing plant as the factory will require more of the crop thereby boosting production.
These are the few examples that are critical in making districts commercially and economically tick.
Residents in localities need to justify why those who do not live there should spend money on these products.
Visitors like stated in the last week column should be enticed to spend money in the local ‘market’ by coming up with a natural but sophisticated way of product branding so that districts are identified by readily available economic activities or actual products.
Agriculture extension officers should work closely with community workers to teach people on how to commercialise production of local agriculture products while nurturing them into growing crops that fetch high to lift local people out of poverty.
They should be psyched into valuing the local products and economic potential around them if well exploited they will become wealthy.
Civic leaders especially in rural areas should not confine themselves to attending council meetings that decide on how to apportion land and other matters but engage with local economic players on how to turn around the economic wellbeing of the people.
This is especially so given the amounts of money growing to the grassroots through the increased Constituency Development Fund.
District administrations should not end at crafting local development plans and achieve them and start gathering dust but should ensure that the strategies are embedded in every activity being undertaken in a community.
There is a need for a buy-in by the community who are producers for ease of implementation.

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