Every year, for 3 days in April, farmers, vets, agri-business people, dignitaries and diplomats, from across the sub-region and beyond, descend on a small town called Chisamba, home to Zambia’s Agritech Expo.
World-wide agricultural expos are held wherever people farm. They are the lifeblood of industrial agriculture, acting as display windows for all things agricultural and providing platforms for networking and training. While it follows the standards and norms set down for agri-expos the world over, Agritech Zambia is somehow different. It is the one expo you really want to go back to.
If one digs a little deeper to discover what it is that sets this expo apart, there are 2 things that come to mind: the Zambian people are amazing – friendly, welcoming, curious, eager to engage, to talk and to learn – and the expo is masterfully designed, planned and organised. Information kiosks, manned by helpful, informed people, appear just when one thinks one may be lost.
Wide, grassy walkways, dedicated to foot traffic only, take visitors around field trials and past machinery displays, stalls, halls and food outlets. Even the hard reality of queuing is softened by systems designed to ‘maximise flow and minimise slow’. The event organiser, Spintelligent, deserves an award for presenting an expo that runs like a well-oiled machine. When things run smoothly people can, and do, focus on what’s important.
COMMON INTEREST AND LEARNING
At Agritech 2017 farmers were discussing common problems and interests. They were learning from one another and from experts and advisors. They were not wasting valuable time fighting to get a drink or something to eat.
The first day of last year’s expo was mainly for visitors from the commercial agricultural sector. Then, on the second day, the gates opened to small-scale farmers and traders who streamed into the showgrounds. A spell of damp, rainy weather did nothing to dampen the spirits of upbeat visitors and the small-scale farmers were visibly eager to learn and to engage with exhibitors and other farmers.
Demonstrations, workshops and talks covering topics ranging from banking to hay baling, from animal and plant disease control to marketing and irrigation, were well-attended by farmers. Developed countries, the UK, the Netherlands, France, Germany and the Czech Republic all had pavilions at Agritech 2017, a sign of first world interest in what Zambia has to offer agriculture in other parts of the world.
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. They are market aware and conscious of when and where to sell their produce for the best possible price.
This is exactly the type of farmer the continent needs as it builds a way forward for agriculture, and these farmers benefit enormously from a platform like Agritech where they can meet, exchange information, network and learn.
This year’s Agritech Expo Zambia takes place from 12 to 14 April. Read more about new and old events and features here: Agritech Expo Zambia turns 5 this year