Zambia’s President, Mr Edgar Lungu and the Zambian Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Mr Given Lubinda, are expected to join some 15000 emerging to commercial farmers at the third Agritech Expo Zambia, taking place from 14-16 April in the agri-hub of Chisamba. More than 145 local and international farming technology and service providers will showcase their products in what is the largest agri-event of its kind in the region. The expo includes a German, Zimbabwean and livestock pavilion.
“We must commend the Zambia National Farmers’ Union for coming up with events like the Agritech Expo”, says Zambia’s Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, the Honourable Given Lubinda,”where farmers can meet, share experiences and information, as well as learn good agronomy tactics that can help them improve productivity. They say, if you want to walk fast, walk alone but if you want to walk far, walk together. I believe that when farmers meet at this year’s Expo they will be able to deal with their challenges.”
The Minister adds: “we need to increase productivity in agriculture, especially among small scale farmers. The vast majority of them produce between one and 2.5 metric tonnes of maize per hectare yet they have access to seeds that have a yield potential of over 10 metric tonnes per hectare. This is why small scale farmers are still trapped in poverty.”
ZNFU: showcasing Zambia’s agri industry
Dr Evelyn Nguleka, Zambia National Farmers Union President, owners of Agritech Expo Zambia, says news features at the event this year include an “Energy Park, designed to offer you innovation and cleaner energy solutions to help you wipe away your electricity outage blues and the ever increasing costs of energy. Our extended Livestock Zone is another must-see area, for you definitely need the right stock genetics and technologies to survive climate change-induced vagaries of weather.”
Agritech Expo Zambia will, for the first time, also feature a live irrigation centre pivot, a very critical feat as Zambian agriculture focuses and seeks to expand irrigated farming at all levels. Dr Nguleka says “the all new 4x4 Test Track is another feature that will finally help farmers decide which 4x4 work horse is best for their farm. We have also extended the SME Zone to make sure we bring in as many agro SMEs as possible. This is important to us as we strive to show case the Zambian agricultural industry in totality.”
A well-known Zambian commercial farmer Graham Rae, MD of Zambezi Ranching and Cropping Limited, says “agriculture can grow and supply the sub region but we need to (with the help of GOZ) reduce input costs. Zambia has to compete with subsidised imports and we believe that these should have tariffs applied to level the playing field. We understand that the consumer needs affordable food and with the correct government policies this can be achieved. We need to protect our markets and ensure our productivity increases.”
Grace Musonda is a Zambian teacher and farmer and another visitor at last year’s Agritech Expo Zambia. She teaches at the American International School of Lusaka and her farm is in Mansa. Says Grace: “my husband and I started with maize and also experimented on commercial cassava growing briefly. In the meantime we had also started with a small herd of cattle. After five years of maize growing, especially at a distance we have just discovered that we should have put all the resources in cattle, it works better for us”.
She continues: “women can play a role in agriculture by getting involved either as partner farmers with their husbands or going it solo. Women can also play a very important role in giving their children a positive view of agriculture. Some women don't like to get involved in farming because they think it's a dirty work or they just think that it's for men only and yet it is actually satisfying.”
Agri industry challenges and support
Zanaco (Zambia National Commercial Bank), as returning exclusive diamond sponsor, heads up an impressive list of local and global agri suppliers that will be at Agritech Expo Zambia at the GART Research Centre in Chisamba. Other big names in the farming sector that are supporting the event include AFGRI, John Deere and JCB, who are platinum sponsors, and Action Auto, Livestock Services, SARO and Zamseed who are all gold sponsors.
The Managing Director of Zanaco, Bruce Dick, says of Agritech Expo: “this is one networking opportunity that brings together farmers throughout the agricultural value chain and exchange ideas on how best to improve yields. It’s also an opportunity for farmers/vendors/bankers to start sustainable business relationships.”
Regarding the challenges faced by Zambia’s agricultural sector, including the drought, Wayne Wiid, Executive Country Manager, AFGRI, says “it isn’t only the drought which is posing a major challenge for the farmers. High interest rates, the strengthening of the US$ and electricity issues are also contributing to the current woes of the farmers. Farming is cyclic and we will have to ‘ride this downfall out’, perseverance is key.”
He adds: “it isn’t all doom and gloom, there are some positives. The open border policy of the government on the sale of commodities is a massive boost for the economy.”
School benefits from Outreach Programme
In the meantime, some 610 learners and 17 teachers at the Golden Valley Basic School in Chisamba, Zambia are reaping the benefits of the Agritech Expo Outreach Programme. The school is situated on the GART research farm where the annual Agritech Expo takes place, and the event organisers decided to raise funds to assist the school with much needed infrastructure upgrades, equipment supplies and management of the school’s farm.
Agritech Expo is organised by Spintelligent, leading Cape Town-based trade exhibition and conference organiser, and the African office of Clarion Events Ltd, based in the UK. The event is owned by the Zambia National Farmers Union.
ZNFU Press conference:
Monday, 11 April 2016, 07H30, Radisson Blue Hotel, Lusaka