President Edgar Lungu has launched the cashew nut plantation initiative which is under the Zambia Integrated Forest Landscape Project (ZIFLP) in Chasefu district in Eastern Province.
The 32.8 million United States dollar ZIFLP initiative is supported by the government in partnership with the World Bank.
The project aims to provide support to rural communities in the Eastern Province, as well as to allow them to better manage the resources of their landscapes.
The project further helps reduce deforestation and unsustainable agricultural expansion, and enhances the benefits received from forestry, agriculture, and wildlife, in the quest to combat climate change.
President Lungu says that once fully operational, the ZIFLP will transform the economic statuses of thousands of farmers in Eastern Province, just like cashew nut farming has already done in Western Zambia.
He said cashew nut is a high value crop which fetches more money than most of the crops grown in Zambia.
He disclosed that the cashew nut growing programme will be rolled out to all parts of the country in order to increase the number of beneficiaries.
The President explained that the project is also aimed at boosting crop diversification and changing the mindset of many local farmers, to grow different types of crops.
The Head of State said the government is committed to supporting the project, adding that the cashew nut is a wonder crop that can change the economic landscape of the country.
“We are willing to buy more seedlings. We feel that Zambia can regain its position in this crop by encouraging farmers to grow cashew nuts” he said.
President Lungu further said his government believes that agriculture can redirect the economic trajectory of Zambia especially when the sector is diversified.
Speaking at the same function, Ministry of Agricultural Permanent Secretary Songowayo Zyambo said 15,000 farmers are earmarked to benefit from the ZIFLP initiative.
Mr Zyambo said at least one million seedlings have already been planted under the project in Eastern Province.
He revealed that the project supports climate smart agriculture which greatly helps farmers improve their yields.
He has since thanked President Lungu for massively supporting the agricultural sector in Zambia.
Meanwhile, ZIFLP Project Coordinator, Tasila Banda noted that there is need to preserve forests to avert effects of climate change.
“We cannot conserve forests where there is no forest. So we are innovatively trying to build the forests on the farms,” she explained.
Dr Banda pointed out that ZIFLP is scoring achievements in agriculture and forestry.
She said if the project succeeds in Eastern Province, the country will get over 166 million United States dollars over a period of 10 years.
“This is a project that has inbuilt sustainability on its own because the farmers will continue practicing this and getting the yields even if the project closes,” she said.
And a beneficiary, on whose farm President Lungu signaled the planting of millions of cashew nut trees, said she was greatly humbled to be accorded an opportunity to grow the highly valued and priced tree on her land.
Beatrice Nyoni, who is a widow, said the project will create wealth for herself and the family for many years to come.
The cashew nut farmers are encouraged to leave a space of 12 meters from one plant to the other in order to allow farmers to grow other crops in the same field where there are cashew trees before they grow big.
In Western Province of Zambia where the cashew nut has been traditionally grown for many years, six million seedlings were planted recently to revamp the sector and manage it scientifically in order to reap desired benefits.