Zambia targets agro to shift from copper
From ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – ZAMBIA has earmarked agriculture as a key sector to diversify its economy from an over-reliance on mining.
Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Given Lubinda, pointed out the country had depended on the mining sector for decades hence the need to transform agriculture, which had vast potential.
“Agriculture is the future of Zambia,” said Lubinda.
“We have depended on the extractive industries over the last 50 years. I usually ask the question, ‘will copper see us through another 50 years? My categorical answer is No.’”
The economy of the Southern African country has historically been based on copper mining.It contributes about 20 percent of gross domestic product and is a key employer in a country of some 14 million people.
“Copper has brought us where we are but the only sector that assuredly alleviates poverty is agriculture. Our focus is to grow this industry that is the future of this country,” said Lubinda.
Several initiatives have been initiated to expand agriculture.
Cabinet has approved the expansion of the Farmer Input Support Programme electronic voucher system in the 2016/17 season.
In response to climate change the government is investing heavily in irrigation.
Zambia has a potential to irrigate 2,5 million hectares of land but so far only 10 percent of that is under irrigation. The government will open up 6 000 hectares of land for irrigation. Already, 11 000 hectares of land has been opened up in Lusitu, Mwomboshi and Musakashi.
The government will soon start making available farming implements to small scale farmers.
“We want to transform agriculture but this transformation will not happen with a hand hoe. Mechanization will help us achieve agricultural revolution,” Lubinda said.
He is hopeful the challenges affecting the sector would be overcome.
“Indeed there are several challenges from climate change, to high cost of borrowing as well as low mechanization. We must commend the Zambia National Farmers’ Union for coming up with events like the Agritech Expo where farmers can meet, share experiences and information, as well as learn good agronomy tactics that can help them improve productivity.”
– CAJ News
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