Agritech Expo breaks records, but ‘not enough commercial farmers’

Agritech Expo

The Zambian agricultural event of the year, Agritech Expo, was held at the Golden Valley Agricultural Research Centre (GART) in Chisamba about 70km from the capital city, Lusaka.

The expo, which took place over three days, was a touch point for farmers and agri-businesses who came in from across the sub-region to engage with their fellows in the sector. The organisers – Spintelligent – said the expo saw more or less 18 000 visitors (the Zambia National Farmers’ Union said 23 000) through the gates over the three day period, many of whom were from other African countries.

It sets a new record, since last year saw about 17 000 visitors.

Chisamba received unexpected heavy rains just before the Agritech Expo started. This is the parking rea for exhibitors on the first day.

The more impressive record is that the show has grown with about 40 exhibitors from 180 to more or less 220. The show also had seven international pavilions this year – from France, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, the Czech Republic, China and Zimbabwe – compared to only two in 2016.

VERY WELL ORGANISED

Event organiser, Spintelligent, deserves an award for presenting an expo that ran like a well-oiled machine, despite a somewhat rainy start. The layout design at Agritech 2017 was impressive and easy to negotiate; wide, grassy walkways, good facilities, strategically positioned food sale points and smooth crowd flow all made for a worthwhile and pleasant experience.

Visitors to the expo, on Thursday 27 April, were mainly from the commercial sector. On the second day, the gates opened to small-scale farmers and traders who streamed into the showgrounds. The products and services on offer by various exhibitors stimulated intense interest from the small-scale sector.

Agritech Expo
Zambia’s seed companies came out in full force to Agritech Expo. Some companies, like Pannar, made use of the chance to hand free seed to small-scale farmers in exchange for their contact detail.

Unfortunately many exhibitors from Europe and South Africa were delayed by striking cabin crew staff of South African Airways. Some exhibitors arrived in Zambia, after delays of up to 12 hours, without their luggage or exhibition materials.

According to Dirk Hanekom of Agri All Africa, SAA crew, who did not strike, worked double shifts to help get passengers to their destinations. “The striking crew members can have no idea of the negative impact their action has had on agriculture and agri-business here.”

This setback however did not dampen the spirits of the visitors who were clearly upbeat. Small-scale farmers showed visible eagerness in learning and engaging with exhibitors and other farmers. Demonstrations, workshops and talks covering a wide range of subject matter, from baling hay and banking, to disease control and marketing, were well-attended by farmers.

Agritech Expo
The President of Zambia, Edgar Lungu, visited the show in his golden helicopter on Friday, 28 April, as has become tradition.

RISE OF THE SMALL-SCALE FARMER

Agritech provided an opportunity to observe, first-hand, the rise of the small-scale commercial farmer. Tech-savvy, smart, often young, these men and women are not afraid to seize opportunities in whatever way they may present themselves. Most of them have jobs and run their small farms on a part time basis with a helper in place on the farm. One could venture to say that they are all market orientated and are aware of when and where to sell their produce for the best price.

This is exactly the type of African farmer the continent needs and these farmers benefit enormously from a platform like Agritech where they can meet, exchange information, network and learn.

Agritech Expo
Mr. Michris Janse van Rensburg of Backsaver Farming Equipment, drew big crowds with his demonstration of small-scale farming equipment, like this top-dressing fertiliser dispenser at the Zamfert exhibition.

A visitor from South Africa, farmer and designer of implements for small-scale farmers, Michris Janse van Rensburg, said his company – Backsaver Farm Equipment – did very well at the show. “Zambia is a whole new market for my products. Backsaver’s products are very relevant to Zambian small-scale farmers. What stood out for me is how willing Zambian farmers are to learn and how much the need and adopt new technology.”

The director of the Netherlands Export Combination – Joost van Dam – said the show was very valuable for the Dutch delegation: “We made some very good contacts in the sector, we concluded orders, we received requests for offers and appointed distributors. We suggest that the show could be improved further by offering proFessional matchmaking at the show.”

Agritech Expo
Internet friends become real friends. Mr. Michris Janse van Rensburg, owner of Backsaver Farming Equipment in South Africa, meets his long time internet acquaintance, Mr. Kingsley Kachenjela, founder member of the 200 000 member strong Facebook group – ‘Small Scale Farmer (Farming as a Business)’.

The Dutch delegation and various exhibitors of expensive farming equipment said they were hoping for more commercial farmers at the show.

The owners of the show – the Zambia National Farmers’ Union – said in a statement that they were thrilled that the show “once again lived up to its hype and scored another resounding success.” They also thanked the event organisers, Spintelligent, the cooperating partners, sponsors and the Zambian government for the massive support.

Agritech Expo
Africanfarming.com meets some of the admins of “Small Scale Farmers (Farming as a Business)” (SSF). From left is Kingsley Kachenjela, founder member of SSF, Rufus Gouws, Marketing Executive of Africanfarming.com, Ali van Wyk, editor of Africanfarming.com, Lewis Simuchimba, Grace Kaputo, admin on SSF, Michris Janse van Rensburg, owner of Backsavers Farming Equipment, Evelyne Simbeye Sakala, admin on SSF and Petronella Simuchimba, admin on SSF.

 

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