CASH RECEIVES OVERWHELMING RESPONSE AT THE 2012 ZAMBIA AGRICULTURE AND COMMERCIAL SHOW

Posted in Latest News on Wednesday, 06 July 2011. Hits 3260 Print

CASH RECEIVES OVERWHELMING RESPONSE AT THE 2012 ZAMBIA AGRICULTURE AND COMMERCIAL SHOW

Every year thousands of people signup, queue up and spend lump sums of money to be part of the agricultural and commercial activities which take place at Zambia’s leading annual Agriculture and Commercial Show.

This year, the recently initiated Commercial Agribusiness for Sustainable Horticulture (CASH) Project was not left out of the hype and activities.

The CASH project, which is made possible by the generous support of the American People through United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and is being implemented by Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP), had an informational booth at Lusaka’s Agriculture and Commercial Show Grounds from 2nd to 6th August, 2012. The booth offered a platform for non-governmental organisations, farmers, famer based organisations, agricultural private and public organisations and other corporate entities to sell their products, inputs and equipment; interview and mingle with staff at the CASH booth.
Project staff members where at hand to explain to booth visitors the goal of the project which is to develop an inclusive horticultural industry for smallholder farmers in Eastern and Lusaka Provinces. On display at the stand was informational material which explained important components of the program such as its objectives of improving enterprise capacity and competitiveness; promoting women’s participation in agriculture; improving agriculture production technologies and productivity; reducing post-harvest losses; improving access to short term production finance; adopting climate change mitigation strategies; and promoting market linkages and strengthening of trade.

The exhibition stand received 159 visitors, 60 of whom were farmers representing about 20 cooperatives from districts including Petauke, Chipata, Lundazi and Lusaka’s peri-urban areas. Private sector companies such as Dynalab; an organic fertiliser supplier, CAMCO, Zambian fertilizer, Amiran and Seedco visited the booth offering to partner with the project in providing the rural smallholder farmers with various services, inputs and equipment. Small scale processing companies also showed keen interest in the project and offered a variety of services for the successful accomplishment of the project.

Many stand visitors were elated to learn of the CASH project and how it is addressing the challenges that the Zambian rural smallholder farmer faces.

A visibly excited rural farmer of Lukoshi Cooperative in Eastern province was very impressed with the CASH project and described the programme as a ‘one-stop shop’ which wholly satisfies the farmer’s needs. Humphrey Mulenga lamented of the predicament his cooperative found itself in when after growing about 4000 heads of cabbages, most of them went to waste because of a lack of access to markets.

“This is what we have been looking for, a project such as this one which holistically addresses the challenges of the rural farmer in Zambia. The greatest challenges that the small scale farmer faces are access to markets, finance and information. These challenges have discouraged our members and forced us to reduce our production of fresh produce and venture into other income generating activities other than agriculture,” he said.

Other farmers and agriculture officers in areas beyond the reach of the project found it unfortunate that the project is not covering their areas.

“This is a brilliant project. However, the reach is not wide enough. There is an abundance of water and land in Luapula but people need information and knowledge on how to utilize the resources in their own back yards. They are unaware that the resources they have are their greatest assets. You need to come to Luapula,” bemoaned Patron Nambage a government agriculture extension officer based in Mansa district.

Women farmers that visited the booth were elated to learn that 50% of the project is benefiting women. One such woman was Margaret Chisangano from Kanakantapa Women’s Cooperative in Chongwe District who explained that the programme would offer great assistance to women in her area. “As women we face quite the same challenges that our male counterparts face in this sector, more so at a higher level. We lose out many times because we lack access to information we are not aware of simple technologies which can improve our farming yields. This project is a relief to women farmers in our province,” she said.

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock also visited the stand and were encouraged by the information that they heard. They expressed eagerness to work with the project and spread the word in their respective districts to encourage farmers to participate in the project.