Government has signed a KR150 million (US$29.8 million) loan agreement with the World Bank to enable small scale farmers improve agriculture productivity and boost food security.
The long term loan facility would be spent on agricultural productivity programmes for the Agricultural Productivity Programme for the Southern Africa (APPSA) and the project would contribute to notable strides in agricultural productivity in Zambia.
Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda who signed on behalf of the government said the project would benefit the Zambian people through job creation, household and national food security.
Mr Chikwanda said at the signing ceremony in his office yesterday that the financing agreement was essential to improved agriculture that would upgrade the living standards of small scale framers.
He said agriculture offered the most promising prospects for Zambia’s accelerated and sustainable development and ensured poverty reduction.
Mr Chikwanda told World Bank Country Director Kundhavi Kadiresan who signed on behalf of the bank that the small scale farmers could deliver prosperity but there was compiling need for them to improve their agronomy.
“The agreement we have signed today of $29.8 million is an essential prelude to improved agriculture. The World Bank sponsored Agriculture Productive Programme for Southern Africa (APPSA) has the correct thrust,” he said.
He said the project would in Zambia be implemented by the Zambia Research Institute (ZARI) under the ministry of agriculture and Livestock with a project focus on research stations to farmers’ fields.
He said the research would primarily focus on food legumes, such as maize, rice and sorghum adding that research stations that were expected to be involved in the project included, Kabwe, Mount Makulu, Masamfu (Kasama), Msekera (Chipata), Mochipapa (Choma), Mongu and the Golden Valley Research Institute Trust (GART).
Mr Chikwanda said the project would have three components of technology generation and dissemination, strengthening regional centres of leadership through capacity building and coordination and facilitation.
He thanked the World Bank for the loan facility saying it would enable the ministry of Agriculture to undertake research work that would benefit Zambian people.
Ms Kadiresan said the signing of the International Development Association (IDA) loan was a signal of the country’s commitment to achieving the goals of an innovative regional operation that included the participation of two neighbouring countries of Malawi and Mozambique.
She said out of the regional project involving more than $90 million in total investment, Zambia would be able to leverage $20 million in IDA resources that otherwise would not have been available.
Ms Kadiresan was excited about the project because of its focus on enhancing research in agriculture adding that agricultural research was under funded in Africa and Zambia was no exception.
“The reason for this is very simple. Agriculture provides Zambia with the best opportunity to diversify its economy. In addition it employs more than 70 per cent of the population and contributes about 14 per cent to real GDP. Therefore, investment in agricultural research and technology are a necessity,” she said.