World Bank; farmers

Zambian government beefs up agriculture extension services

Government is recruiting 472 more officers to boost its agriculture extension services, says Agriculture Permanent Secretary Julius Shawa.

Shawa says improving inadequate staffing levels in various districts will expand agricultural extension services and help drive diversified growth. “Staffing levels are poor, with one camp officer attending to 1 000 farmers,” he says.

According to Shawa, the extension officers lack adequate accommodation and transport, making it hard for them to do their jobs. “Some officers walk 30 kilometres to get to camps,” he says, adding that plans are underway to buy motorbikes and build houses in various districts for officers.

The agricultural department faces several stiff challenges, including the late delivery of subsidised inputs under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP). The department’s initial slow response to last season’s invasion of armyworm on more than 100 000 hectares of maize in six provinces, also increased concerns about staffing levels.

On rolling out FISP for the next farming season, Shawa reiterated government’s position that it will scale down the number of beneficiaries from 1.6 million. “We are screening farmers to ensure the most vulnerable are captured among the 1 million beneficiaries government is targeting under the 2017/2018 programme,” he says.

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