By ROBERT JERE
The Livestock Sector in Zambia is increasingly becoming an important component of Zambia’s economy. The sector has tremendous potential and capacity in contributing to poverty alleviation, increasing the socio-economic status of most people thereby contributing to the economic growth of the country.
The use of livestock and its sub product manure are important in crop production and can provide proteins to a human body if eaten. It is also used to transport agricultural inputs, products and people. On this premise, Livestock production is an important means of exchange between rural households and when sold, contributes to boost and strengthen rural markets.
To actualize livestock production, government through the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries recently announced that it was working on a policy dubbed “The One Farmer, One Livestock Programme”. The policy aims at ensuring every household rears livestock in order to eliminate poverty in the country.
Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Permanent Secretary Benson Mwenya explained that government intends to introduce a policy that will not only empower every household to own livestock but to also contribute to poverty reduction.
Dr. Mwenya highlighted the importance of incorporating livestock in the farmers’ activities to avoid depending on rain-fed agriculture; instead farmers need to also embrace livestock.
And Small-Scale Farmers Development Agency (SAFADA) supports government’s position of coming up with a policy aimed at ascertaining every household keeps livestock in order to improve the livelihood of small-scale farmers.
SAFADA Director Boyd Mobwe said most small-scale farmers in the country want to venture into livestock due to low crop production, which is as a result of poor rainfall.
Mr. Mobwe explained that it is important to have such a policy because it will support and boost farmers’ enterprises especially those already engaged in livestock and those that want to venture into it.
“Farmers are looking for other avenues like livestock keeping and need some form of support to help them put their animal production and health,” he said.
Mr. Mobwe stressed the need for the policy to be actualized noting that government should ensure that every farmer benefits from the policy once implemented.
“Government must target all farmers in the country because when a policy of this nature is implemented, in some cases only a few farmers are targeted,” he said.
Mr. Mobwe added that government must ensure that these policies are effectively implemented. He said the policy needed to deal with bottlenecks concerning beneficiary farmers, citing some gaps under the Farming Input Support Programme (FISP), where some people were masquerading as small-scale farmers and accessing inputs under the programme. He observed that such flaws need to be tightened within the policy framework.
He called on stakeholders to assist government with the effective implementation of this policy in order to avert deficits in farming inputs.
National Union for Small-Scale Farmers Membership Coordinator Augustine Busuma highlights the importance of the policy in empowering small-scale farmers to diversify in their agriculture enterprises, noting that farmers needed to also include value addition.
“As a Union, our aim this coming farming season 2020/2021 is to ensure that we make all small-scale farmers productive in their animal husbandry, crop production, daily farming, horticulture, aquaculture and seed production,” he said.
Mr. Busuma, who is also a small-scale farmer in Lusaka added that the Union is eager to embark on value addition in whatever enterprises farmers are engaged in. He also advised farmers not to depend on seasonal farming.
He said the Union is in the process of segmenting the organization and interactions with the farmers in specific areas, citing Southern Province as one of the areas dealing with drought, by encouraging farmers to embrace livestock farming.
“The way Southern Province deals with drought, we would like to encourage livestock farming. We have Luapula that is endowed with rainfall and more water resources, farmers in this area should get into crop production,” Mr. Busuma said.
He said the Union plans to engage research organisations to see if they can introduce animal husbandry into Northern Province, Muchinga Province and other areas of the country in order to segment the productivity of agriculture.
Given the effects of climate change, Mr. Busuma encouraged farmers to invest in solar energy in order to avoid reliance on hydro power.
However, the costs of solar investment is exorbitant, a situation which has compelled the Union to introduce schemes in order to enable small-scale farmers engage in profitable agriculture enterprises.
Another small-scale farmer in Chibombo District, Chifwembe Nsofu, who is also a NUSUFAZ District Board Chairperson said that ‘The One Farmer, One Livestock Programme’ is a welcome move to farmers.
“Am sure almost every small-scale farmer if they fail to keep a goat or a pig at least they are keeping some local chickens or guinea fowls. The move government is making is just meant to enhance what is already on the ground,” Ms. Nsofu said.
She urged small-scale farmers to support the policy government has initiated in integrating livestock in their agriculture enterprises.
Livestock products not only represent a source of high-quality food, but also a source of income for many small-scale farmers. It will also enable farmers to purchase agricultural inputs, such as seed, fertilizers and pesticides.
With the foregoing scenario, it is evident that livestock can make an important contribution to the Zambian economy, as various livestock products can be exported for foreign exchange, which is likely to boost the country’s economy. -NAIS