Lack of access to market hinders agriculture growth in Zambia

Lack of access to market is hindering growth in the agriculture sector in Zambia. This is despite the fact that agriculture has been identified as key sector for the development of the country; this was stated by Fr Peter Henriot, of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR). His Excellency Canadian High Commissioner to Zambia John Deyell, said that NEPAD is moving in the right direction as this is only the fourth year of its existence. He called upon stakeholders to be patient and work towards attaining the NEPAD objectives. These statements were made at the National Consultative workshop on NEPAD agriculture programmes held on 29-30 November 2005 in Lusaka.

Small scale farmers face difficulties in accessing the international markets due to standards requirements, such as Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS). At the domestic market farmers are disadvantaged due to inadequate or poor transportation system, lack of market information and poor agriculture marketing system, said Mr. Joseph Ssuna from Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM).

The workshop was organised by PELUM Association Zambia, and Consumer Unity and Trust Society-Africa Resource Centre (CUTS-ARC). It was being held under the partnership project titled: Information based Advocacy, Networking, and Capacity Building on NEPAD in Zambia, supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The objectives were, to seek ways of integrating NEPAD Agriculture programs into the National Development Plan (NDP), to build capacity among Small Scale farmers to understand NEPAD Agricultural programs, and to identify feasibly projects that can be implemented under NEPAD for the betterment of small-scale farmers in Zambia.

The stakeholders discussed cross cutting issues pertaining to agriculture in Zambia, such as, overview Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), constraints and developments in the agriculture sector, streamlining CAADP into the fifth National Development Plan (NDP), building communication linkages around NEPAD and providing a framework for expanding Zambia’s agriculture trade.

The stakeholders cited a number of constraints to the development of the sector in Zambia, such as; lack or poor infrastructure, including roads, dams, storage facilities, transportation facilities and irrigation techniques, poor pricing mechanism, absence of finance, inadequate extension services, unavailability of market information, the lack to ownership to land, and low budget allocation to the sector.

The agriculture sector still remains vital to the economies of most African countries as it employs. Approximately over 50 % of the labour force representing 20 percent of merchandise and accounts for 20 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In view of the listed constraints, NEPAD has adopted agriculture as one of its key sector, programmes; NEPAD views agriculture as the key sector for achieving economic advancement and reducing poverty on the continent.

The vision for agriculture seeks to maximise the contribution of the sector, to Africa’s development. In order to achieve the ambition of a self-reliant and productive Africa that can play its full part on the world stage. The vision for agriculture is embedded under CAADP which is anchored on four pillars. These are; extending the area under sustainable land management and reliable water control system, improving rural infrastructure and market access, including inputs and finance, increasing food supply and reducing hunger and agriculture research and technology.

The stakeholders realised the importance of the CAADP, in order to promote agriculture in Zambia. However, it should be realised that for any decision or initiative to be successfully implemented, there should be strong political will. Farmer’s representatives lamented that small scale farmers do not own land; most of the land is under customary or state ownership. This has imparted negatively on the sector, because people can not use land as security to access finance due to lack of title deed. Therefore to ensure national productivity and development of the sector, there should be implemented mechanisms or policies to ease the procedures in acquiring land.

Since most farmers in Zambia depend on seasonal rainfall, this has contributed to food insecurity in the nation, in instances of late rains or droughts. This can be addressed by encouraging water harvesting technologies, promote irrigation to encourage productiveness, throughout the year. One major constraint exist to the use of modern irrigation facilities or techniques, that is ‘electricity’ the distribution of electricity in Zambia is concentrated along the line of rail. This disadvantages most small scale farmers who are not along the line of rail, to ensure the benefit from irrigation technologies this should be complemented by rural electrification. It was highlighted that there should be harmonization in the use of organic and non-organic methods.

There are a number of problems pertaining to market access, including inputs and finance. Firstly there is a poor or inadequate transportation facility to enable agriculture products access the domestic markets. This is further worsened by the absence of market information, this in most cases result in the selling of produce at a price below the production costs. It is recommended that in order for farmers to realise profits from agriculture produce it is important that these are provided with a well networked transportation system, which will provide efficiency and reduce the cost of production. Mr. Kasote Singogo from the Zambia Association for Research and Development (ZARD) stated that, there is need to put up a mechanism that will enable that will enable both farmers and traders access information such as market price, market demand, and market supply. Farmers should be further provided with Micro-finance and processing facilities to avoid wastage.

The stakeholders realised that in order for Zambia to realise benefits under NEPAD, there is need for identification and implementation of national projects. The following projects were identified by stakeholders as relevant under NEPAD.

  • Capacity building for small scale farmers on use of land and water systems
  • Construction and improvement of rural road network
  • Fish farming and fish conservation
  • Rice growing e.g. Western province and Chambeshi, etc.
  • Sugar cane growing and processing
  • Cassava project in all rainfall regions
  • Constructing and renovation of existing dams
  • Agriculture market information