Agriculture Minister Hon. Michael Katambo visited cassava farmers in Luapula Province this week to launch the Zambian Breweries Smart Agriculture under the cassava farming project.
The Minister also took time to learn about the project ad hailed the company for having made the right decision to invest in the area and empower small-scale farmers. He noted this was in line with the Government’s agenda under the 7NDP.
To welcome the Minister were the elated Mansa residents who turned out in numbers for the official launch of the Chembe project, which incorporates a high-tech cellphone-based “block chain” system designed to enhance traceability and purchase of high-yield cassava.
Zambian Breweries launched the cassava scheme in 2017 and now buys cassava from over 4,000 farmers from Luapula, Northern and Muchinga provinces of Zambia. The crop is a key ingredient in the manufacture of the affordable Eagle Lager.
The launch of the block chain project comes after consultants contracted by the company from South Africa, Belgium and the United States of America visited and engaged the farmers earlier in the year in Mansa.
The project, which runs under a system called BanQu, will use GPS to locate farmers, enable farmers to be identified by agents, and facilitate transactions and communications to verify transactions.
Zambian Breweries director of corporate affairs Ezekiel Sekele explained that the project was targeting a wide number of farmers.
“This year, we are targeting to reach 2,000 farmers to be on the technology based platform called BanQu system. Currently, we have 1,000 farmers on the system as part of the pilot project,” he explained.
Mr Sekele also said the BanQu system – locally referred to as Chembe cassava online buying project – brings dignity to farmers through the identification of the smallholder farmers in the supply chain, focuses on yields and skills development and promotes financial inclusion..
“The system will help the assessment of the yield quality, increase demand and will locate our farmers more accurately. I am glad to announce that this project will also meet the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals by promoting financial inclusion, as our partners from the banking and micro finance sectors will enable the project’s transparency and farmer’s ability to save,” he added.
Agriculture Minister Hon. Michael Katambo urged farmers to welcome the Chembe Cassava farming project with both hands and not be sceptical because government was aware with how transparent the system is.
“Please use this initiative because it also promotes financial inclusion and will encourage you to save from your cassava earnings,” Mr Katambo urged.
The minister reminded the farmers how tedious it was, before, for them to trade in cassava, and was elated that the project was in line with Smart Zambia Masterplan, 7NDP, Zambia Vision 2030, as it will encourage ICT skills transfer in the agriculture sector.
“The project is in tandem with the Zambia’s prospects of transforming Zambia into a middle income nation through the use of “smart agriculture,” which is also in line with vision 2030,” he said.
Mr Katambo encouraged other private players to emulate Zambian Breweries in enhancing socio-economic development in its value chain.
Speaking at the same event Luapula Provincial Minister Hon. Nickson Chilangwa said the launch marked a milestone as farmers would be able to find a ready formal market for their crops.
“My wish is that my people in Luapula will be the best in cassava for Eagle Lager,” he said.