By Nation Reporter
THE University of Africa (UoA) will offer scalable and affordable on-farm solutions to rural smallholder farmers in Luapula Province, says Head of Business and Development studies, Chungu Kabaso.
The initiative was against a backdrop of provincial minister Nickson Chilangwa wooing investors in various projects aimed especially for developing the region that was poor despite being abundantly endowed with natural resources.
“Alongside other stakeholders, we will embed farming practices that will ensure smallholder farmers can immediately apply these innovations and technologies to best effect,” Kabaso said.
He said the on-farm solutions included integrated land and pest management practices which took into account changes as a result of climate change and associated challenges.
More than 10,000 smallholder farmers were expected to benefit from the university’s expertise to increase agricultural productivity in a sustainable way.
Despite being endowed with abundant and fertile soils, Luapula remained one of the poorest regions in Zambia.
The majority of its nearly 1 million population resides in rural areas. The main livelihoods in the province are fishing and subsistence farming.
Over 9 percent of the farming households in the province are small-scale farmers, cultivating an average of 2 ha. The farming system is based on manual labour input, with cassava and maize the main subsistence crops. The other crops grown are maize, tea, millet, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, rice and bananas.
Fishing is practised in and around the two main fisheries in the province – Mweru-Luapula and Bangweulu.
About 35,000 households depend on these fisheries for their food security, with the fishing dominated by men and the fish trading by women.
In addition, households practice fish farming, often in combination with crop farming.
“Our focus is to guide actions needed to transform and re-orient agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security,
“Therefore, we will provide specific solutions to improve productivity and encouraging farmers to adopt sustainable farming and educational extension services,” Mr Kabaso said.
Incorporation of technologies would also increase opportunities, and motivate smallholder famers to improve productivity.
On the perennial challenges of accessing finance, Kabaso said the university would play the role of assisting smallholder farmers develop bankable business plans and facilitate interactions with financing institutions.
On accessing markets, the university would facilitate market opportunities locally and in the region, especially, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) given its proximity to the province.