THE Zambian Government is determined to make Zambia the food basket of the region in neighbouring countries and contribute significantly to the global food supply chain, Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda has said.
Mr Lubinda has also urged African countries to put the hand hoe in the museums and promote a mechanised and smart agriculture because the hoe had outlined its usefulness in agriculture.
He said his Government had developed various short term, medium and long term interventions to make agriculture the mainstay of the Zambian economy.
Mr Lubinda was speaking in Livingstone on Monday when he officially opened the first joint Pan-African Grain Legume and World Cowpea Conference currently being held at AVANI Victoria Falls Hotel.
The conference has brought together more than 500 delegates across the world and they include the world’s most eminent scientists, researchers, academia, agriculture and nutrition campaigners and promoters of food and nutrition security.
It is being held under the theme “sustainable grain legume systems for food, income and nutrition security in a rapidly changing environment”.
Mr Lubinda said the Government was committed to ensuring that farmers were involved in the production of a wide range of crops that would ensure that the country’s food and nutritional security status was sustained.
“As Zambian Government, we are determined to make Zambia the food basket of the region and contribute significantly to the global food supply chain.
“As such, we invite investors in agriculture to call on us to pursue this important agenda,” Mr Lubinda said.
And Mr Lubinda has urged African countries to put the hand hoe in the museums and promote a mechanised and smart agriculture because the hoe had outlined its usefulness in agriculture.
He said there was need for the continent to promote a mechanised and smart agriculture as well as the introduction of digital or ICT solutions to enhance crop production.
“The African woman and the African youth cannot continue to till the land using such backbreaking, inefficient and archaic tools.
“The youths who are driving modern computer based systems cannot be attracted to agricultural systems that are divorced from advanced technology,” Mr Lubinda said.
He urged delegates to use the forum as an opportunity to share experiences and information relevant for the promotion of sustainable and increased production, processing and marketing of grain legumes especially in Africa.
“As you do so, please remember that by 2050 the world population will have increased to nine billion and the three quarters of that population will be living in cities and demanding more food particularly foods with proteins.
“As a result of rapid urbanisation, Africa’s urban population will have grown threefold by 2040. This means that less and less people shall be in rural areas to grow food,” Mr Lubinda said.
Mr Lubinda noted that 77 per cent of the 60 million farmers in Africa were subsistence farmers growing crops on less than one hectare each.
He said because of poor mechanisation in Africa, 65 per cent of work force in African agriculture comes from human muscle against 35 per cent across the rest of the world.
Mr Lubinda said also the hosting of the conference in Livingstone and Zambia in particular was an endorsement on the country’s peace and a sign of recognising the role that Zambian scientists were playing in the area of legumes research.
Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) Executive Director Yemi Akinbamijo said in an interview that key scientists involved in in grain legumes improvement across the world and in Africa were attending the conference.
“This is like calling the select. All the brains that can turn the situation and make a difference are here in Livingstone,” Dr Akinbamijo said.
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Deputy Director General in charge of Research for Development Ylvia Hillbur said in an interview that drought tolerant crops would be extremely important in countries facing the effects of climate change like Zambia.
“You also need to diversify and have different varieties of cash crops such as legumes, cowpeas and integrate cassava.
“We need to move away from subsistence farming to growing of cash crops. We also need to diversify our eating habits in view of climate change,” Dr Hillbur said.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation program officer Jeff Ehlers said in an interview that his organisation supported the hosting of the conference because it was key in uplifting the lives of smallholder farmers.
“With respect to this conference which represents all grain legumes researches in Southern Africa, there is a good part of international community and this will provide exchange of information,” Dr Ehlers