When we take a look at the distribution of the agricultural budget in the recent past; it is noticeable that little emphasis has been placed on broad-based public investments. The emphasis on agricultural subsidy packages alone has also proved to be less effective in fostering agricultural growth. NDC cannot overlook the reality that investments in research extension, roads and strategic public infrastructure, is vital in supporting a robust agriculture system.
Additionally, heavy spending on FISP and FRA only has left few resources to invest in other recognized drivers of agricultural growth and stifled diversification as the country policies are maize-centric which is a low value crop. another hindrance is the continuous late budget releases to the Ministry of Agriculture, fisheries and Livestock. Late budget releases to support extension officers and field operational funds affect operations and execution of other agricultural programs hence affecting service delivery.
Therefore, in order to counterbalance the challenges and bottle necks in the agricultural sector, The NDC will do the following:
¬ We will balance government funding to support other key drivers of agricultural growth which are essential.
¬ We will increase spending in public infrastructure which will incorporate the following issues: irrigation development as a way to lessen drought and improve productivity; crop, soil, and livestock scientific research and development and deploy the use of latest technologies in this area;
¬ we will also focus on extension and educational programs for effective and efficient utilization of inputs,
¬ We will also ensure continuous infrastructure development and improve timing for budget releases. As NDC we will develop an effective monitoring tools intended to increase budgeting transparency and accountability in the sector.
¬ Since the involvement of commercial banks in the small and medium scale agricultural sector remains negligible; NDC government will introduce a bank called agricultural industrial Bank” in collaboration with the private sector that will give loans to businesses ventures that have cooperated to convert agricultural produce to finished products hence creating linkages between agricultural sector and industrial sector.
¬ We will ensure that youth and women cooperatives are formed and will accesses loans from the agricultural and development bank in the conversion of agricultural produce to finished products.
NDC’S AGRICULTURE DIVERSIFICATION PLAN.
In order to diversify our agriculture sector,
¬ Sustainable diversified agricultural sector that supports the significant reduction of poverty entails a significant investment in other sectors such as horticulture, livestock and fisheries, and treat it as core equals to other sectors of development.
¬ NDC will revamp agriculture cooperatives and diversify them for bulk input supply and marketing services for the production of specific commodities other than Maize, rice and soya.
¬ We shall facilitate the development of agro processing industries in all the districts for purposes of value addition and job creation, especially for the youth and women.
¬ Every district will have an industry tailored to that districts agricultural produce and comparative advantage
¬ We will anchor our agricultural sector on the the principal of comparative advantage. We will ensure that each district in Zambia only focus on a crop that it is best suited to be grown in that area.
An increase in urban populations and a varying of consumption trends has generated key opportunities and prospects for local farmers by a rise in domestic and regional demand for horticultural crops ; fruits and vegetables. Horticulture provides a substantial value addition in terms of slicing, packaging, canning, and dicing, and production of juice, sauces, preservatives. The processing of horticulture products creates significant jobs in both urban and rural areas. This sector has been deserted by government due to the tendency of prioritizing the maize sector which has very low potential in reducing rural poverty and urban unemployment.
However, in trying to exploit these opportunities, we will do the following;
¬ We will make a deliberate effort to support smallholder horticultural production by allocating public funding towards infrastructure and entrepreneur activities that will support slicing, packaging, canning, and dicing, and production of juice, sauces, preservatives.
¬ Foster private-public partnerships with tax incentives in the area of processing horticulture products to finished produce.
¬ We will also support horticulture research and technologies to advance suitable horticultural production
¬ We will also investment in horticulture trading markets locally and abroad and use Zambian missions abroad.
LIVESTOCK SECTOR DEVELOPMENT
Livestock production and marketing in Zambia has remained restricted to the traditional sector hindering the growth of livestock per household and the lack of marketing livestock produce. This has been caused by: a limitation of disease control at almost all stages of the value chain; a small input of husbandry techniques, low productivity and poor marketing coordination that link farmers to urban markets.
When we form government this is what we will do:
¬ Direct more resources to disease control through the construction of extra dip tanks and establishment of breeding centers and effective breeding programs in every rural ward.
¬ veterinary extension service delivery will be done through deployment of veterinary assistants at ward level.
¬ Animal husbandry techniques will be improved by promotion of supplementary feeding programs for livestock particularly during lean periods for every farmer.
¬ We will also support livestock research and technologies to advance suitable livestock production
¬ And investment in livestock trading markets locally and internationally and use Zambian missions abroad.
FISHERIES SECTOR DEVELOPMENT
Citizens involved in fish production and the economy as a whole are not benefiting from this industry because of the many challenges that the sector is facing despite its potential to increase employment, contribute significantly to GDP and reduction of poverty. Not only so; there has been a gap between supply and demand of fish production in the country and this has to be bridged. These challenges include; miniature production and productivity; absence of storage facilities for fish and other fish products; inefficient administration of the sector and weak implementation of fisheries regulations.
To undo these challenges and enable a thriving fishing industry; NDC will implement the following;
¬ we will reorganize the fisheries department into Capture Fisheries and Aquaculture and ensure that each is funded separately and adequately.
¬ we will introduce an Aquaculture and Fisheries Fund for fish production for small and medium scale sector, especially for youth and women. This will multiply fish production from aquaculture ; especially by small and medium business hence creating employment and reducing poverty amongst the youth and women
¬ We will also enforce fishing regulations that avoid depletion of fish stocks in water bodies but the same time promote other fish producing activities that boost reproduction of fish stocks.
These proposed measures will ensure a thriving agricultural sector.
(The author is Secretary General of the National Democratic Congress)