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Essay: Agriculture in Zambia

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The specific objectives of the agricultural sector as stipulated in the National Agricultural Policy (NAP, 2004) are:

‘ To assure national and household food security
‘ To ensure that the existing agricultural resource base is maintained and improved upon.
‘ To generate income and employment to maximum feasible levels
‘ To contribute to sustainable industrial development and.
‘ To expand significantly the sector’s contribution to the national balance of payments.

To achieve the above objectives, about 20 strategies have been put in place and from time to time, agricultural policy adjustments and reforms are undertaken(NAP, 2004).

The report on a research project funded by the European commission and entitled ‘The Crisis in African Agriculture’, established that due to trade-offs between the available limited resources (especially financial), as the state support for agriculture was progressively withdrawn, and focus of development shifted to other sectors, productivity of smallholder farmers had significantly reduced mainly because of poor access to land and resources, natural resources degradation (following poor farming technics and management), low investments in agricultural resources, low training and extension services, as well as lack of quality, efficient and effective private sector to take up the place left by the government. The report added that farmers called for greater aid focus on the needs of marginal farmers, support for long-term food security (instead of food aid), improved access to land, credit, water and appropriate seeds and breeds, improved access to relevant agricultural advice and support; to appropriate technologies; and an agricultural research system that reflected their needs as well as a bigger voice in decisions regarding the allocation of resources to agriculture. The report further stated that, wanting aid from the European Community, the Zambian government developed the NAP, in 2004, as the EC required a Country Strategy Paper; which provides the country’s requirements for developmental assistance, so that the EC can tailor programmes towards the country’s needs rather than mechanical continuous funding in line with the previous assistance programmes, and pointed out that the objectives of NAP include; all-year round production and post-harvest management of basic foodstuffs, production of agro-based raw materials for industry, increase in agricultural exports, and income and employment generation through increased agricultural production and productivity (Practical Action/ PELUM, 2005).

Timberlake and Lawrence, Hansen and the world bank(1986), showed that agricultural production and productivity had reduced in that last score due to various reasons including population increase, pressure on marginal land, dependence on unreliable and poor rainfall, environmental degradation, government policies (favouring the urban while neglecting the rural population), deteriorating international conditions such as aid and its implications on the dependent economic sectors, and shifts in the government policies, and added that to strike a balance and hope for improvement and solutions to such, government agricultural policy reforms were introduced as economic and environmental conditions were difficult to control and influence effectively for the government.

2.2 Status and Characteristics of Agriculture in Zambia

Mucavele .F. G (2009), found that about 97.4% of rural households were engaged in smallholder agriculture, that these constituted the 74% of the estimated 600,000 farmers, countrywide, 26% of which are commercial farmers, and that agriculture in general contributed about 18% towards the national GDP over the last decade. He added that according to the world fact-book (2002), more rural based people were increasingly venturing into smallholder agriculture as the means of survival, following increased unemployment levels.
WTO (2002), established that 60% of the total national maize production was accounted for by small scale agriculture, which was vulnerable to rainfall swings, following dependence of small scale agriculture on rainfall, and stated that this posed a serious risk to national food security in times of droughts and floods, and suggested that small scaled agriculture turn to supplementation of rainfall with irrigation.
Zambia’s smallholder agriculture has various features most of which are inter-related. These include the following:
Low technology; Unsustainable and poor farming techniques such as chitemene and fundikila systems, as well as simple tools including axes, hoes and, etc, coupled with poor on-farm crop management contribute to low agricultural production and productivity per farmer or per farm.
Lack of sufficient proper storage facilities, coupled with storage pests and diseases, causes significantly higher wastages in storage than on farm losses. Overdependence, on rainfall and external assistance, by smallholder farmers, such as government and other institutional or organisational support. There is little, if any rainfall supplementation through such methods as irrigation, posing a danger for poor harvests in times of poor rainfalls. Farmers rely on the government and donors for agricultural inputs. There is the risk of little and untimely availability of agricultural inputs, which in turn has implications for production and productivity. Besides, there is poor education and training among the farmers; generally, the levels of education and training among smallholder farmers are low. This is escalated by lack of specialisation in various sections of the agricultural sector, as well as inadequate extension services attributed to the high extension worker to farmer ratio. The sector also suffers low prices of produce and inefficient market systems, to mention but a few.
2.3 Challenges faced by the Zambian agricultural sector
2.3.1 Financial resources
Samatebe(2005) confirmed that agricultural development was impeded by reductions in agricultural investments and lack of proper credit for income generating enterprises by and from various stakeholders such as microcredit providing institutions, among many other factors, while CPAP(2011) found that limited access to credit by smallholder farmers, low budgetary allocations resulting in weak institutional capacities at central and local government levels, high interest rates and borrowing rates, and high inefficiencies in public expenditure management, were among the factors interfering with agricultural development. UNDP Zambia (2011) acknowledged that increased access to financial services as well as agricultural inputs, to small and medium scale farmers (to be indicated by % of support groups such as agricultural co-operatives, associated with or affiliated to the district business associations in the targeted districts), through government and partners or other stakeholders enabling of vulnerable populations to attain food security, thereby contribute to poverty eradication and attainment of MDGs, by 2015.
2.3.2 Land tenure and security
In rural societies, the poorest people often have such weak or unprotected tenure rights that they risk losing land they depend on to more powerful neighbours, to private companies (domestic or foreign), or to members of their own families. Women are particularly vulnerable in that their land rights may be obtained through such kinship relationships with men or marriage that if those links were severed, women could lose their rights. Sufficient attention should be paid to secure access by small-scale food producers and processors to land tenure issues, to spearhead development projects therein. For instance, when irrigation is introduced into previously rain-fed farmland or roads are built to link farmers to markets, the new economic potential of the land makes it more attractive, and small-scale producers can lose out to more affluent or powerful settlers. Tenure security or rights also allows people to diversify their livelihoods by using their land as collateral, renting it out or selling it. It also influences the everyday choices of poor rural farmers, such as which crops to grow and whether crops are grown for subsistence or commercial purposes, and the extent to which farmers are prepared to invest in the long-term wellbeing of their land or to adopt new technologies and innovations. Lack of secure land tenure exacerbates poverty and has contributed to social instability and conflict in many parts of the world.
2.3.3 Poor agricultural market incentives and linkages
According to Saasa (2003), smallholder farmers, who then depended on the government to handle the marketing and pricing of their products, had difficulty in the marketing and pricing of their agricultural products following the liberalisation of the agricultural sector, including the marketing and pricing of agricultural products. It was found that the farmers instead, disposed of their produce to unscrupulous traders, reduced production, diversified in other crops or lost their harvest while in storage.
2.3.4 Poor infrastructure, low technology and dependence on seasonal rainfall
2.3.5 Saasa (2003) assessed the country’s agricultural related infrastructure and technology, particularly looking into road networks, electrification, draught power, irrigation and storage facilities. He noted that most roads in rural and agricultural communities were in dilapidated states and made it difficult for quick and easy accessibility and transportation of agricultural inputs and agricultural products and commodities to the market. He found that storage facilities were unreliable, in quality and handling capacity, thereby interfering with the integration of small and medium scale farmers into the liberalised market economies. It was established that low land utilisation resulted from lack of irrigation facilities to supplement and lighten dependence on seasonal rainfall, whose duration and reliability were low and erratic respectively. It was also established that electrification of households in agricultural communities, which eases agricultural product and commodity processing, thereby adding value to the commodities and hence attracting more market and increasing agricultural income, besides enabling farmers to enter the liberalised market and attain the commercial scale required, was lacking, and that there was low labour productivity and agricultural production following low technology in terms of draught power, including the use of oxen and tractors other than simple hoes and axes ( World Bank, 2010, ASIP, 2011 and Saasa, 2003). It was found that technologies that improve the time spent on land preparation were likely to positively affect the rates of agricultural yields and consequently agricultural intensification, besides raising the areas cultivated.
2.4 Potential of the Zambian agricultural sector
2.4.1 Land resources
Samatebe (2005) and CSO (2010) established that Zambia has an inland area coverage of 752,614 km??, that about 58% of that total area has a medium to high potential for agricultural production, and that much of the resource remain untapped.
2.4.2 Water resources
Zambia is blessed with many natural and man-made water bodies such as rivers, lakes, swamps, waterfalls and dams. Samatebe (2005) stated that Zambia’s abundant water resources remained untapped.
2.4.3 Human resources
Zambia’s population stands at over 13 million, with 60% of the population depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, with 83% of this % living in estimated poverty (World Bank, 2009 and CPAP, 2011). It was noted that the majority of smallholder farmers had low formal education, though were exposed to various forms of informal education and training through extension service provisions, and that low labour productivity and low quality of human capital also contributed to poor agricultural production and poverty eradication (CPAP, 2011).
2.5 Structure and characteristics of agricultural co-operatives in Zambia
Co-operatives have various characteristics including; members are united through at least one common interest, members pursue the goal of improving their economic and social situation through joint actions, members use a jointly owned and operated unit which provides them with goods and/or services. Regardless of its physical size and activities, the unit’s purpose is to use the joint resources of the members to produce or obtain goods or services for the members (FAO, 1998). The main motive for people to set up or join a cooperative is to improve their economic and social conditions through joint action for the good of all members. Agricultural co-operatives are voluntary organisations which are open to all persons with the ability to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial political or religious discrimination. They are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions, in which members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. They are autonomous, mostly self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy. Besides, they provide education and trainings, usually through linkages with extension service providers, for their elected representatives, managers, and employees so that they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures, and most importantly work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members (FAO, 2008, Zeuli, 2002, World Bank, 2010).
2.6 Smallholder farmers knowledge, skills (practices) and attitudes towards agricultural co-operatives
2.7 Roles of agricultural co-operatives in the marketing and pricing of smallholder agricultural produce
Agricultural cooperative organisations all over the world are facing the task of transforming and adjusting them-selves to a new economic and political environment, market oriented conditions and increasing member demands. This means a need to learn new production methods, new methods of organisation and management, and in particular, ways to help maintain or increase, member loyalty and commitment. This can be achieved through increased participation, communication and information provided the organisation’s core activities are efficient in meeting member’s needs. They, for instance, market surveys and studies to explore what kind, quality and quantity of produce customers want (FAO, 1998). They work out what and how customer’s needs could be identified, what are the possible outlets for sale of member’s produce, can long term contracts be made with such suppliers and customers and who the competitors for market are in their region.
Diao (2012) found that better market access and opportunities, which fetched higher agricultural product prices and hence higher returns, among many other factors, determined agricultural growth, following better performance such as in terms of productiveness of the targeted agricultural subsector, for instance the agricultural co-operatives. It was further established that domestic and export market opportunities (and import-substitution opportunities) are determined by the development of agro-processing industries, domestic and international trade policies, and market-access conditions (for example, regulations and information flows).
2.8 Roles of smallholder agricultural co-operatives in the mobilisation and distribution of credit (financial capital) among members
They prepare plans, stating the finances required and where it will come from to finance the planned activities.
2.9 Roles of agricultural co-operatives in the mobilisation and distribution of agricultural inputs among the co-operative members
2.10 Factors which influence the effective performance of smallholder agricultural co-operatives
There are many challenging experiences faced by agricultural co-operatives, including stiff competition, sometimes without clear rules, controlling government policy and legislation and leadership, management and governance challenge, member participation and empowerment and the challenge of capital investment in co-operatives.
2.11 Potential of Agricultural co-operatives
Agricultural co-operatives have the potential to overcome agricultural barriers to assets, information services and markets for agricultural commodities, to stand on behalf of small farmers and transact out the business in a cost effective manner, to create the ability for the supply of required agricultural inputs so that production of commodities is done timely to enhance productivity, to provide an assured market for commodities produced by isolated small farmers in the rural areas, with collective, to capture the benefits of value added, because of bulking and take advantages of introducing grades and standards allowing agro processing value addition for the members. Besides, they are responsible for stimulating poor farmers to make entry into markets, enhancing demand for standards and grades, even for perishable commodities such as bananas, onions and tomatoes. All co-operatives are affiliated with the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), which has the opportunity to navigate global co-operative trade. Such initiative would involve connecting the African co-operatives, with for example fair trade organizations in Europe and America. The ICA also, has an opportunity of innovative work of linking African co-operatives, with technologically advanced agricultural co-operative systems in Asia and Latin America ( Ortman et al, 2006, Holloway, 2000 etal, Chambo, 2009)

2.12 Agricultural prospects
Chambo(2009) established that agricultural co-operatives in Africa were still at the drawing board, that more design work needed to be done with the participation of members to arrive at an appropriate size of agricultural co-operatives which could respond to the needs of members. He emphasised that design work had to be part of the policy agenda for governments so that policy makers were not fixed to static traditional models of the co-operative enterprise, that policy and legal framework for co-operatives needed more design and constant review work, guided by the members. It was identified that explicit adjustment and reduction of government controls in the co-operative movement were necessary so that the members would be free to mobilize resources for expansion of the agricultural enterprises in their regions, that member education for empowerment and entrepreneurship needed a new and drastic review so that members education and training, could be directed to problem solving but at the same time, introduce the members to programs of bringing about change and trained to become entrepreneurs on their own right. Getting new generation co-operatives would cultivate the required risk taking by the members and would not allow free riding while on the other hand, the co-operators will get the right incentives to sustain the co-operative enterprise attracting qualified leadership and management capacity expected in agricultural co-operatives.

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