Agriculture minister Dora Siliya says government has set aside one million hectares of land for the construction of farming blocks which are expected to accelerate development in rural areas and create opportunities for farmers.

And South Africa’s Gauteng provincial minister in charge of economic development and trade Lobongang Maile says it is regrettable that Africa is still facing challenges of poverty despite being endowed with a lot of natural resources.

Speaking during a press conference at her office yesterday, Siliya said the farming blocks will be actualised by next year.

“We have set aside one million hectors of land in the country, what we are calling farm blocks to try and accelerate development in our rural areas through agriculture so that we create an opportunity for our people to make money. So by next year we are going to begin actualising the farm blocks. This means in the next three years there will be much demand for farm equipment in this country, there will be a lot of demand. I would like to see that ultimately, prices reduce because plants will be set up here so that there is easy access to this equipment. As I said earlier, one of the things that is challenging us here is the issue of commodity trading and we will be very happy to see and learn from South Africa how you handle commodity trading, market access for the farmers. I think we will be eager to learn some of those best practices that you engage in,” Siliya said.

She said it was exciting that African leaders had shown interest and commitment in the alleviation of poverty on the continent through Agriculture.

“This is an exciting time for us in Africa and our leaders, the Presidents have pronounced themselves to agriculture as a solution to the problems facing the sector. Both at continental level and even at the SADC level. I think we all have to agree that most of the poverty in Africa is going to be sorted out and our rural areas need to be carried forward as well. It is important that we have a liberal approach towards the issues of trade because it encourages relations, benefits people and creates more jobs. We are happy that for the first time we are exporting Bananas and Grapes to South Africa,” said Siliya.

“I think we have a responsibility as political leaders to ensure that trade is fair and I think that’s the dialogue we should continue to have. We need to see increased investment in agribusiness and we want to see that money come to Zambia particularly in maize and beyond. We are open to business through the ZDA and we want to open the doors to the private sector.”

Meanwhile, South Africa’s Mailie who led his delegation to meet Siliya regretted that Africa was still facing challenges of poverty despite being endowed with a lot of natural resources.

“Africa, despite the fact that we have been endowed with a lot of natural resources, we still have poverty being a big problem in our continent. So I am happy that you are worried about the issue of production minister (Siliya) and that you want to look at value addition. We are investing a lot in technology and using it in the area of production. There is no reason why you have a lot of South African companies that are here [in Zambia] but are not producing and manufacturing some of the products that are consumed here. If other SADC countries are not doing well, it means more problems for us South Africans because we can’t succeed and excel in isolation from the rest of SADC. If that’s the case then there will not be inter tourism or inter relations because then our economies will not be doing well,” Mailie said.

And Mailie also said that South African farmers were facing a challenge with accessing farming inputs due to lack of proper financing services.

“The other challenge we have is market access for small holders farmers and the issue of finance because it is very difficult sometimes to get your inputs. Then the issue of mechanisation is a problem for all the farmers. So what we need to do is find a mechanism that does not encourage dependence on the part of the farmers. In most cases what we tend to do in South Africa to encourage our farmers is that we give them grants to promote them and also try to strike a balance between production and access to finances and inputs,” said Mailie.