FEED THE PEOPLE

Zambia 2015 | AGRICULTURE | FOCUS: TRANSZAM AND E-TRANSPORT

Innovative applications and software are helping Zambian farmers and distributors to harvest and produce more efficiently.

Over the last century, though not without overcoming challenges along the way, Zambia's economic development has largely been driven by copper mining. Nevertheless, long-term sustainability of the Zambian economy is also dependent on agriculture, which is why the country's Vision 2030 defines the sector as the anchor of economic growth. According to the “Investment Opportunity in Zambia's Agriculture Sector" paper by Ndambo Ndambo, Executive Director of the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU), the contributions of agriculture, forestry, and fishing to the national GDP in 2013 were estimated at 20%, employing over 80% of the total workforce in the country. The Hon. Given Lubinda, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock told TBY, that Zambia is endowed with 752,000sqkm of land, nearly 60% of which could be classified as having medium to high potential for agricultural production. According to Ndambo, only 14% of the agricultural land is currently being utilized. This may seem at first like a drawback, but it is also a great opportunity for investors in agriculture and a useful tool for poverty reduction. According to the World Bank, agriculture is 3.2 times more effective at reducing poverty in low-income and resource-rich countries than other sectors of the economy.

Aware of this, the government has been trying to attract investment into the sector with several innovative initiatives such as the Farming Block Development Program, a project that, as Hon. Lubinda explained to TBY, creates links between large corporations and the numerous small-scale farmers who work the land with the guarantee that their production will be acquired by a larger player who will then take care of agro-processing, marketing, and distribution. This mutually beneficial arrangement gives farmers access to markets and guarantees that they will not have to manage excess stock.

This has long been an issue in Africa because while increases in productivity have always been the focus, access to markets is as important an issue. In order to solve these problems, software and applications have emerged to allow farmers and distributors to be in closer contact. Two systems deserve special attention: Transzam and E-extension.

The Zambia Transport Information System (Transzam) was launched at the end of 2011 by the ZNFU, which is sponsored by the EU. This system puts farmers and truck drivers in touch to help them manage and organize the transport of agricultural products from fields and rural areas to urban centers. This system is equally beneficial for farmers and for drivers with available space.

The E-extension System was launched in May 2014 by the ZNFU. This system runs on Airtel and offers farmers key information to support them in making better decisions. Using the application producers can find relevant data regarding weather trends, product demand, market prices, agricultural events, crop field practices and diseases, fertilizer products, veterinary services, seed companies, traders, agro agents, organizations and more. This is a cheap and effective way to support farmers in a country where access to information is as difficult as it is indispensable.

Despite these ICT developments, the Hon. Lubinda is looking for better solutions that not only improve the productivity and efficiency of the sector, but involve the young unemployed population that has faced an average unemployment rate of more than 25% between 1990 to 2010. Among other strategies, this year the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock is introducing an electronic voucher system to provide inputs for farmers.

All of these new developments can only be great news for the growing population that each year increases its demand for food products. That demand is especially high for wheat, soya beans, maize, and sugar. According to the ZNFU paper published in February 2014, the products with the highest potential for investment in terms of livestock are poultry, dairy, and beef. Huge untapped potential in equipment and machinery for agriculture products has also been observed. 6Over the last century, though not without overcoming challenges along the way, Zambia's economic development has largely been driven by copper mining. Nevertheless, long-term sustainability of the Zambian economy is also dependent on agriculture, which is why the country's Vision 2030 defines the sector as the anchor of economic growth. According to the “Investment Opportunity in Zambia's Agriculture Sector" paper by Ndambo Ndambo, Executive Director of the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU), the contributions of agriculture, forestry, and fishing to the national GDP in 2013 were estimated at 20%, employing over 80% of the total workforce in the country. The Hon. Given Lubinda, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock told TBY, that Zambia is endowed with 752,000sqkm of land, nearly 60% of which could be classified as having medium to high potential for agricultural production. According to Ndambo, only 14% of the agricultural land is currently being utilized. This may seem at first like a drawback, but it is also a great opportunity for investors in agriculture and a useful tool for poverty reduction. According to the World Bank, agriculture is 3.2 times more effective at reducing poverty in low-income and resource-rich countries than other sectors of the economy.

Aware of this, the government has been trying to attract investment into the sector with several innovative initiatives such as the Farming Block Development Program, a project that, as Hon. Lubinda explained to TBY, creates links between large corporations and the numerous small-scale farmers who work the land with the guarantee that their production will be acquired by a larger player who will then take care of agro-processing, marketing, and distribution. This mutually beneficial arrangement gives farmers access to markets and guarantees that they will not have to manage excess stock.

This has long been an issue in Africa because while increases in productivity have always been the focus, access to markets is as important an issue. In order to solve these problems, software and applications have emerged to allow farmers and distributors to be in closer contact. Two systems deserve special attention: Transzam and E-extension

The Zambia Transport Information System (Transzam) was launched at the end of 2011 by the ZNFU, which is sponsored by the EU. This system puts farmers and truck drivers in touch to help them manage and organize the transport of agricultural products from fields and rural areas to urban centers. This system is equally beneficial for farmers and for drivers with available space.

The E-extension System was launched in May 2014 by the ZNFU. This system runs on Airtel and offers farmers key information to support them in making better decisions. Using the application producers can find relevant data regarding weather trends, product demand, market prices, agricultural events, crop field practices and diseases, fertilizer products, veterinary services, seed companies, traders, agro agents, organizations and more. This is a cheap and effective way to support farmers in a country where access to information is as difficult as it is indispensable.

Despite these ICT developments, the Hon. Lubinda is looking for better solutions that not only improve the productivity and efficiency of the sector, but involve the young unemployed population that has faced an average unemployment rate of more than 25% between 1990 to 2010. Among other strategies, this year the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock is introducing an electronic voucher system to provide inputs for farmers.

All of these new developments can only be great news for the growing population that each year increases its demand for food products. That demand is especially high for wheat, soya beans, maize, and sugar. According to the ZNFU paper published in February 2014, the products with the highest potential for investment in terms of livestock are poultry, dairy, and beef. Huge untapped potential in equipment and machinery for agriculture products has also been observed.