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The Interrelation Of The Agricultural Sector Condition And High Level Of Poverty In Zambia

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Zambia being one of the developing countries has a number of strategies to enable her reach a certain level of standard of living. Poverty has been a serious disease in Zambia and many strategies where put across to see to it that poverty is reduced. “Poverty is pain; it is like a disease. It attacks a person not only materially but also morally. It eats away one’s dignity and drives one in total despair”.

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Poverty is the negation of development, and since development is a multi-dimensional phenomenon, poverty is multi-dimensional as well. Poverty differs from one place to another. In the Zambian context it can be defined as deprivation of a long healthy life, educational opportunities, and access to resources for a decent standard of living, thus, income and consumption, housing, health, clean water and sanitation, and lack of freedom to exercise choice and participate in society.

Having the high levels of poverty, the first president Dr. Kenneth Kaunda looked forward to a time when children in Zambia will eat one egg a day, for this to happen are number of strategies were put such as education, rural development, health, infrastructure, agriculture to mention just a few. Among a good number of strategies to reduce poverty, the work will look at agriculture as a strategy. The first republican president used agriculture to reduce poverty and to see if the strategy was successfully implemented or not.

Agriculture in Zambia has the potential to enhance economic growth and reduce poverty. Good performance in the sector translates into overall improvement of the country’s GDP, creates jobs, and expands the tax base. This is mainly because the majority of Zambians depend on agricultural-related activities for livelihood. Thus, the PRSP sees the sector as one of the driving engines for the anticipated economic growth that is required to reduce poverty. In view of the potential multiplier effects that the agricultural sector has on the economy, the PRSP sees the restoration of its high and sustained growth as constituting a critical step for reducing poverty in Zambia. It is in this regard that the Fifth National Development Plan (FNDP) positions the agricultural sector as one of the driving engines for economic growth required to reduce poverty Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ), 2006.

The fact that not everyone can be able to have a white collar job, the president took agriculture to be good way to reduce poverty for it catered for every Zambian whether with qualifications or not. He looked at agriculture as a livelihood. In his planning, he saw how Zambia rich she was in terms of land and water. Therefore policies where put in place, thus the agriculture policies, which he saw that if people are involved in agriculture, they will have food on their tables, have good health, take their children to school and solve other unforeseen problems. For this to work out the president took agriculture in different parts, that is livestock and crops-horticultures. Under livestock there were Dairies, Ranches and Hatcheries.

Under dairy, there was a creation of what we called Zambia dairy hood where farmers could take their milk to be sold. With this strategy farmers had ready market for their produce. An example of this is a plant at Palabana.

However, this was to promote the development of a competitive, efficient and transparent public and private sector driven marketing system for agricultural commodities and inputs, facilitate market information flow among stakeholders, Impart agro-business skills to market participants and farmers, especially women, promote and enforce grades and standards of major agricultural commodities and inputs, facilitate the development of rural infrastructure, such as roads rural storage infrastructure, create a market driven environment with no market distortions for improved input and output market centers, create an enabling environment for an improved agricultural input and output market, especially for small-scale farmers in rural areas, promote crops with both domestic and export markets, encourage financial institutions to be established in rural areas, FNDP 2006 – 2010.

In addition, most of the Zambian farmers are engaged mostly in cattle keeping, fishing, hunting and subsistence farming. The main livestock produced are cattle, goats, pigs, sheep and poultry and more recently donkeys. In the Zambian traditional set up, cattle fulfill a number of roles in social functions such as traditional ceremonies and payment for dowry. They also contribute to production through draught power for ploughing, transport and manure. It is also stated that cattle are seen as the main form of security in Zambian traditional society, being a store of wealth and in a way fulfilling the accumulatory role. Further, studies among the Zambian and the other sub Saharan countries show that a family needs a minimum of 30 to 50 heads of cattle to live reasonably and to fulfill their social obligations.

He also made sure in each province there were Ranchers where framers could have access to good breed of their animals. This was made so because some people had bad breed that could not bring enough income to the farmer, let’s say like for dairy, the , local bring could only produce a half litter of milk which will not even be enough for the family to feed. But for the introduction of Ranches, a variety of breed was readily available. To improve on the local ones, the creations of these lead to job opportunities to the local people.

Meanwhile, under crops, the, first republican president had to put plantations in various provinces. For example cashew nuts in Western province, pineapples on North Western. Banana plantation in Chirundu and Mwense and the sugar cane plantation which started in Lusitu which now has extended to Mazabuka. The tea companies and coffee where introduced too, this meant there will be export of the product, job creation and nutritional value which will see the level of poverty to reduce.

Not just looking at these mentioned crops, the president also looked at what type of crops could be planted in a particular area with the type of soil available. The rice plantations where introduced to western province because of the water availability cassava in Luapula and province, maize for southern.

During the FNDP period, food crops such as maize, cassava, sorghum, millet, sweet potatoes, beans, wheat and groundnuts will be targeted for increased production and productivity. Others to be targeted for production and research include indigenous horticultural crops fruits and vegetables. With regard to commercialization of the agricultural sector, it is expected that an increased number of small-scale farmers will be fully integrated into commercial production throughout grower arrangements or as individuals. Major cash and high value crops to be targeted include cotton, tobacco, groundnuts, paprika, cashew nuts, soya beans, castor, sesame, marigold, herbs and spices in agro-ecological regions I and II; and coffee, tea, and sugar in region III3 . Large-scale commercial farm production of cash and export crops like floriculture and horticultural products will also be promoted. The Government will also endeavor to promote the formation of co-operatives and strengthen their operations so that they become the main conduit for socio-economic development, contributing to poverty eradication.

In support these strategies he had put, he also looked at measures of keeping farmers going in terms of resources. In this case he opened up financing institutions like Lima bank. For farmers in hot culture who could produce perishable goods, he opened up a processing company called ZAMHOT which is Zambia horticultural company. And other company called (SIDO) small industry development organization was opened to help in farmers to do additional value to their produce. For the love of reducing poverty the president also built some silos in Monze and Kabwe where maize was kept to avoid wastage and ready for emergencies in case some parts of the country are faced with drought or floods. The country will have food and poverty to reduce. This in all made him build sheds in almost all districts.

Mention should be made that, not just already mentioned project were done, He also provided extension services where he opened farmers institute in each province and farmers training centers some districts. In these institutions farmers where trained in various crops and its management. This is the time when He opened more extension services and opened NRDC college and then at the university of Zambia He introduced the school of agriculture and veterinary. This was to have professional, who will later give proper teaching to the farmers to improve on their produce. Zambia institute for animal health (ZIAH) were opened in Mazabuka, because He aimed at poverty reduction seeing a future where a child would have one egg in a day. He wanted to make sure farming to have standard in terms of seed. For this reason he opened up seed institution. Seed control and certification institute were opened at Mt Makulu in Chilanga and that is when the company ZAMSEED was opened, which up to now more companies have come up like SEED-CO, MRI, DELKDAB to mention a few. Another policy was to provide skilled human resource for the agricultural sector through capacity building, and addressing issues of HIV and AIDS and Gender, in order to increase the sector’s production and productivity. Provide short and long-term training at technical and professional levels, including farmer training, facilitate development of public and private sector training institutions, promote agricultural education at both basic and high school levels, including young farmers’ clubs, promote income generating ventures in agricultural training institutions, establish new training institutions and rehabilitation of existing.

Despite all these effort made, the implementation was not a success because the type of education on curriculum design was not suitable to enable Zambians to cherish. Instead everyone opted to white collar job and this lead to urbanization leaving land in the rural and have no one to develop the land in the implementation of these programs. There was misuse of fund which made some program not to continue after the change of government, Government of Zambia.

There was little disagreement within Zambia presently that the policy of liberalization is correct for revitalizing agriculture. There was consensus that the government’s pricing and marketing policies in the agricultural sector during the pre-reforms period failed to provide sufficient incentives for increased output by farmers, and also discouraged private sector-led agricultural development especially in the input and output markets. Moreover, because of the policy bias in favor of maize, infrastructure and service support to the agricultural sector discriminated against other equally rewarding activities in this sector targeted at both the classification on the basis of farm size. This was misleading because some farms were operated as intensively high technology enterprises on relatively small land. This is common in peri-urban areas where intensive livestock and high value irrigated crops are grown. Domestic and external markets, consequently, a badly distorted and lop-sided agricultural sector emerged that was dominated by a single crop, maize, which was encouraged even in areas that were not suited for its production, Government of Zambia, (2004). Moreover, cattle were used for meeting financial obligations such as payment of school fees, purchasing other essential commodities like blankets and ploughs. Food Security here refers to adequate access to food all the times, throughout the year and from year to year. Access is ensured when all households and all individuals within those households have sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious and balanced diet.

The causes for the high poverty in rural areas were varied. For example, small-scale farming connected with cattle rearing in the Southern, Western, and Central Provinces attribute cattle disease as one of the major causes of poverty. For most rural areas generally, the failure of agriculture is considered a major contribution to poverty. Most livelihoods in rural areas are agriculture-based. Drought outbreaks in the early 1990s followed by sudden state withdrawal of support to agriculture without adequate private sector response to fill the gap in many instances led to loss in income. On top of that, rural areas suffered many deprivations such as poor access to amenities like health services, safer water, quality education, and infrastructure.

Generally, the poor, particularly those in rural areas, saw failures of agricultural sector policies as having contributed significantly to their poverty conditions. The late arrival of agricultural inputs, inadequate infrastructure support, absence of agricultural finance/credit, weak extension services, expensive agricultural inputs, and absence of protection from scrupulous buyers of agricultural products are among the highlighted concerns in most of these studies. Other major concerns included livestock diseases in some rural areas, poor road infrastructure, lack of jobs, poor access to health due to distance to health centers, long distance to safe and clean water sources, and poor but expensive education. In urban areas, the greatest expressed concern is lack of gainful employment opportunities, and poor and expensive health and education facilities. Late payments of retirement benefits are also often cited.

In conclusion, the following were additional challenges that still compromise the ability of the agricultural sector to benefit from its full potential and, hence, make a significant dent on the country’s poverty levels, low productivity, high dependence on rain-fed agriculture and limited utilization of irrigation, High post-harvest losses, deficiencies in the early warning system, inadequate infrastructure and high energy and transport costs, limited access to affordable credit, especially for small and medium scale farmers, poor functioning agricultural markets, which limit small scale farmers access to markets, restrictive trade policies, which may result in price volatility and regional specialization, limited domestic market, insecurity of the traditional land tenure system, limited mainstreaming of gender in agriculture, and environmental degradation due to unsustainable agricultural practices.

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