OVER 400,000 small-holder farmers are linked to agribusinesses through more or less vertically integrated value chains.
In return for assuring their supplies of raw produce, these agribusinesses provide farmers with varying amounts of inputs and services, including not only marketing services but crop management knowledge and skills.
Smallholders are among the major beneficiaries in commercial value chains is based on the costs and profits accruing to individual participants at each segment of the value chains and the nonmonetary benefits received by smallholders.
But importations of products which can be grown locally has continued to threaten the sustainability the local producers.
Time and again, the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) has raised concerns about the huge quantities of imported products such as tomatoes flooding the local market.
According to ZNFU, importation of such products are adversely affecting farmers’ income.
At the moment Zambia gets most of the supplies from South Africa. Local agro industry must grow. Farmers need to work hard to meet the short fall of whatever products are needed in the country.
But for them to do this, there should be a readily accessible market for their products.
The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) in its proposal for the 2021 National Budget submission to Ministry of Finance have asked Government to consider increasing import duty on locally produced agricultural products.
According to JCTR this will create market for farmers whose merchandise go to waste and consequently protect smallholder businesses and their markets.
JCTR observed that many fruits and vegetables were imported which and yet they could be grown locally.
It is also important to note that a readily market for small scale farmers is vitals as they have been adversely affected by the restrictions on public gatherings and the need to comply with all other health guidelines and ultimately it has affected their household income.
A report by ActionAid titled “Covid-19 impact on small scale farmers in Zambia,” highlights that most small-scale farmers in Nalolo, Mongu and Chipata depend on selling of these farm produce for their livelihoods.
The most notable and sad part of this, is that some of the farm produce which are ready for harvest are horticulture products like tomatoes and vegetables which are perishable in nature and are now going to waste.
The development of mitigation measures by the government that will minimize the impact of Covid-19 in terms of vulnerability and dependence on imports for our essential goods such as food.
This is a great concern because the power to decide what to grow is no longer in the hands of local people but rather controlled by external factors.
This has taken away the food sovereignty for local farmers to have control on what to grow and how to grow it.
Smallholder farmers account for 70 percent of Zambia’s farming community, according to the ZNFU. The union has 600,000 smallholder farmers, emergent farmers, and commercial farmers.
Of that number, two-thirds or 400,000 are smallholder farmers. But the total number of smallholder farmers in the country could be double or even triple that as many are not affiliated with the association.
Smallholder farmers are the people responsible for food security in Zambia.