The University of Africa (UoA) in Zambia will offer scalable and affordable on-farm solutions to rural smallholder farmers, says Chungu Kabaso, Head of Business and Development studies.
Kabaso says the initiative will be piloted in Luapula Province this year, where an estimated 10 000 smallholder farmers will benefit from university’s expertise to increase crop productivity in a sustainable way.
“Alongside other stakeholders, we will embed farming practices that will ensure smallholder farmers can immediately apply these innovations and technologies to best effect. This includes integrated land and pest management practices which take into account changes as a result of climate change to address the challenges associated with increasing productivity,” he said.
Despite being endowed with abundant and fertile soil, Luapula remains one of the poorest provinces in Zambia. The majority of its population of nearly 1 million resides in rural areas.
Over 95% of the farming households in the province are small-scale farmers, cultivating an average of 2 ha. The farming system is based on manual labour input, with cassava and maize as the main subsistence crops. The other crops grown include tea, millet, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, rice and bananas.
“Our focus is to guide actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security. Therefore, we will provide specific solutions to improve productivity and encouraging farmers to adopt sustainable farming and educational extension services,” Chungu said.
Incorporation of technologies will also increase opportunities, and motivate smallholder farmers to improve productivity.
On the perennial challenges of accessing finance, Kabaso said the university will play the role of assisting smallholder farmers to develop bankable business plans and facilitate interactions with financing institutions.
On accessing markets, the university will facilitate market opportunities locally and in the region, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo given its proximity to the province.