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Combined forces boost crop yields in Zambia

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Small-scale farming in Zambia is set to get a boost through a new partnership between agricultural company African Green Resources and the non-profit organisation the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP). Image credit: World Bank Group

A partnership between agricultural company African Green Resources and the non-profit organisation the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) is expected to boost crop yields in Zambia over the next few years. 

The first phase of the initiative, which involves a USD40-million fertilizer-revolving facility and another USD170-million for value addition, was implemented in the Eastern, Northern, Western, Central, Lusaka and Copperbelt provinces on the 1stof July 2020. According to Jason Scarpone, president, and CEO of AFAP the initiative’s primary focus will be on job creation for the youth. “We will also look at improved farming practices among small-scale farmers by providing them with affordable inputs, technologies and soil fertility-testing facilities,” says Scarpone. 

Farm input suppliers African Green Resources’ (AGR) has partnered with the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) to implement the project. Through the USD40-million fertilizer-revolving facility, the initiative seeks to boost crop yields and food security for farmers who are facing difficulties accessing agricultural finance during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Through this partnership, the initiative seeks to turn 125 000 hectares of land into a greenbelt with 250 000 smallholder farmers expected to benefit. This venture will support smallholder farmers under an out-grower crop-input scheme. AGR will partner with local and regional collaborators, farmer associations and 40 000 cooperatives under the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry to undertake the programme. Credit packages of seed, fertilizer and training are to be provided to farmers, who will be linked to commercial input dealers. In addition, the project aims to add value to soya beans and maize by producing stock feed, among other agricultural products. 

Zambia is regarded as a top maize grower in Africa. However, it delivers a low average yield because of poor soil fertility. In the 2018/2019 crop season, Zambia’s national average yield rate for maize was 2.52 tonnes per hectare, far below Egypt’s eight tonnes and South Africa’s four tonnes. 

According to Zuneid Yousuf, AGR chairman this yield per hectare could double once the initiative is implemented. “During the second phase, the partnership will endeavour to build capacity among farmers to add value to livestock by-products.  According to Scarpone, value-adding activities under the crop-input scheme will include farmer connectivity and digital solutions; advocacy and operation support, including 150 000 metric tonnes of high-quality fertilizers for improved nutrition. 

“Vulnerable communities may face the most devastating food crisis in decades. If we do not act now millions, especially the youth, will be pushed into deep poverty and hunger,” says Scarpone. He adds that the partnership has a responsibility to support the vulnerable farming communities to help avert a hunger crisis. The initiative provides an excellent model with regard to how the private sector and individual companies can step up in collaboration with African institutions, government and organizations such as the World Food Programme to sustain production and the food-supply chain and safeguard people most at risk in the Covid-19 area. 

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