Zambia could become southern Africa’s bread basket, and agricultural growth should be the key to achieving the country’s developmental objectives. This according to the first Agriculture Status Report of the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute.
The institute is a non-profit company and a combined effort between the Zambian government and private agricultural stakeholders to provide solid research to lead and guide government agricultural policy.
“As a developing country, growth in the agricultural sector is the clearest avenue through which sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction can be achieved in Zambia,” the IAPRI said in the report.
The report says factors influencing agriculture in 2016 was the El Niño weather pattern, the general elections, and the piloted FISP e-vouchers (Farmer Input Supply Programme electronic vouchers).
Zambia escaped the worst effects of El Niño, in contrast to its neighbours. However, the report questions the regions’ preparedness for extreme climate cycles. It says it is necessary for regional governments to invest in preparedness, since extreme climate cycles are on the increase.
According to the IAPRI, the government started 2016 well, with an open border policy which earned the country decent foreign exchange from maize products.
Smallholder farmers received higher prices for maize from the private sector than from the Food Reserve Agency. However, the country didn’t take advantage of being the sole regional surplus stockholder when it again instituted an export ban in May 2016.
Higher regional demand however led to increased informal trading.
AGRICULTURE’S PLACE IN ZAMBIA’S ECONOMY
According to the document, agriculture is the main supporter of the rural economy. According to the Central Statistical Office of Zambia, 49% of Zambians depend on agriculture for their livelihood and employment. The sector was able to contribute 8.5% to the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015.
According to the Crop Forecast Survey of 2016, Zambian agriculture consisted of approximately 1.47 million smallholder farming families (less than 20ha). The combined number of medium (20 – 100ha) and large scale farmers (more than 100ha) make up approximately 3 000 farmers.
Evidence shows higher numbers of emerging medium and large-scale farmers established themselves recently. The Ministry of Agriculture, along with partners, are planning a survey for more accurate numbers.