I wish to start by congratulating Prof. Nkandu Luo for the appointment as Minister of Fisheries and Livestock. Congratulations madam! You have a big task ahead of you, but I believe you are equal to the task given your academic accolades and experience, which are useful for the transformation of the livestock sector. The Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock is a strategic ministry in the National Export Diversification agenda from Copper to Agriculture in which Livestock and Fisheries are priority areas. The export diversification agenda is spelt out in the Seventh National Development Plan (SNDP) and Vision 2030, but lack deliberate policies and strategies on how to actualise this agenda.
I believe you will derive your mandate from these two documents, for the successful transformation of the livestock sector in Zambia. Before going far, I would want to bring you to the realities of what is obtaining under this sub-sector. Currently, in Zambia, policies related to the livestock sector are often incoherent and ill-defined. However, livestock makes a major, although largely underestimated, contribution to rural development. They contribute to food production, enhance crop production and provide additional economic goods and services as well as cash income. The undocumented truth is that amid this economic hardship where national GDP is below 3%, the livestock sector is growing at about 5.5%, which if well harnessed, can be an economic backbone of this country.
Accordingly, understanding the livestock subsector in Zambia will enable you to have a transformational agenda. I will provide you with the classification of the livestock sector using my own definition based on my moderate experience. I will be biased to livestock (and not fisheries) because that is what I understand better, hoping that someone else will weigh in with the fisheries aspect. The livestock sub-sector in Zambia is made up of small scale (traditional), emergent and commercial farmers. Small-scale farmers include traditional livestock farmers mostly in rural areas keeping small to large herds of livestock but primarily based on traditional livestock rearing methods and on communal grazing land. Emergent farmers are mostly in peri-urban and urban areas raising livestock mostly on titled land. I call these weekend farmers as they do livestock keeping remotely and only visit their farms on weekends. They do livestock rearing as a business but still practice traditional methods, which makes the business unprofitable. They have the capacity to adopt technological advancements such as breeding, production, marketing, and disposal in the livestock value chain when exposed, hence a possible policy leaver in bridging the gap between commercial and traditional livestock farmers. Commercial farmers own large pieces of land mostly along the line of rail and run livestock rearing strictly as a business. They employ both skilled and unskilled labour at the farm. To transform the livestock subsector, these classes of farmers must be integrated using well-thought-out market models. Without this deliberate approach to create linkages, am afraid the livestock sub-sector will not run effectively. Such a holistic approach, as I recommend below, will ensure a successful transformation of the livestock sub-sector. Among other strategies, the following will be critical to get the sub-sector moving:
1. Start by developing a five-year livestock sub-sector transformation strategy. Actively engage all key stakeholders in the livestock value chain in developing this strategy. These strategic plans must take a bottom-up approach using a participatory management philosophy. We have ten provinces, which are headed by Provincial Fisheries and Livestock Coordinators (PFLC). PFLC must engage District Fisheries and Livestock Coordinators (DFLC) for each to come up with a practical five-year strategy on transformation of District Fisheries and Livestock sub-sectors. The respective districts must engage key stakeholders to develop these critical functional documents using a participatory approach. The PFLC with his team will put the documents together and send to the Ministry, which will also engage policy think tanks and other critical stakeholders for the development of a National Livestock subsector transformation strategy in response to the SNDP and vision 2030. This would mean each officer would have a five-year strategic plan towards which we can be working, unlike the visionless approach where there are no common bearings on where the sector is headed. The question would be, where would the funding for this exercise come from? I strongly feel that grants can support these efforts if we put up a bankable national proposal and practical quantifiable deliverables. A robust stakeholder mapping must be conducted to select critical stakeholders who will come up with functional deliverables from workshops and not engaging people to go and make allowances. The monitoring and evaluation department must ensure that they monitor the successful implementation of the five-year national livestock subsector transformation strategy. They should monitor deliverables and interrogate failure to meet targets. This would make audits very easy because performance indicators do not lie. The holistic National Livestock Sub-sector Transformation Strategy must take cognisant of internal factors (PESTEL analysis), which include:
• Livestock market share locally, regionally and internationally.
• Livestock market and marketing operation (the 4 P’s-product, price, place, promotion).
• Financial structure and resources.
• Livestock subsector operation (production and manufacturing).
• Livestock sub-sector competitive position: image, breadth of the product line, service quality & reliability
• Facilities: equipment (age, maintenance cost, technology, etc).
• Management system: decision-making, ICT, technology system.
• Livestock sub-sector profitability and share of the Gross Domestic Product
• Livestock product basket & diversity.
• Capital Advocacy.
The holistic National Livestock Sub-sector Transformation Strategy must also take cognisant of the external environmental factors (PESTEL analysis), which include:
• Livestock market volume and trend: size, growth rate, etc.
• Livestock Market rivalry: price, number of competitors, products.
• Macroeconomy: inflation, interest rates, exchange rate, disposable income etc.
• Livestock subsector employment and workforce availability.
• Regulations and legal issues: barriers to entry and exit, Sanitary Phytosanitary (SPS) issues, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
• Socio-cultural factors: population growth rate, age distribution, health consciousness, community entrepreneurship etc.
• Political factors: government policy, foreign trade policy, political stability, etc.
• Environmental issues: climate change, infrastructure (electricity, water, land, pollution, etc).
• Livestock sub-sector technological factors: research and development in new ways of producing and distribution livestock goods and services, and a new way of communicating with target markets.
These PESTEL factors will help with a SWOT analysis for the National Livestock Sub-sector Transformation Strategy.
2. Develop a robust applied research and development section in the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock. I know this is your passion as well as strength and I believe you will do an excellent job in this area. The Central Veterinary Research Institute (CVRI) is very crucial in livestock research in Zambia, but it is currently grossly underperforming due to lack of or misplaced human resource and funding. There are many officers with PhD qualifications in various fields in the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock trained at great expense to the taxpayer. Let us make use of them. To improve research output, there is a need to reorganise and overhaul the entire system to make it more responsive to the livestock subsector transformational agenda. Researchers must run CVRI from the Deputy Director to the laboratory technologists. All heads of sections or laboratories must be PhD holders in respective fields and equipped with grants writing capacity to be able to attract funds alone or in collaboration will Schools of Veterinary Medicine locally, regionally and internationally. CVRI must be able to host students conducting research registered with local, regional and international universities. This will bring funding to the institution. CVRI must get international partners and collaborate to run projects and develop capacity. History has it that at the inception of the UNZA School of Veterinary Medicine, lecturers came from CVRI and these have been key in the development of the veterinary research in the country. CVRI must take the lead in vaccine development. Fifty years after independence, the country cannot produce and market essential vaccines against diseases, which can be made available to farmers. Integrate CVRI and UNZA School of Veterinary Medicine in terms of disease diagnosis, prevention, control and research.
3. Develop an Agribusiness or Business Development and Planning Department, which must put deliberate policies to engage farmers in running livestock farming as a business. This departmental will play a key advisory role to the technocrats as well as yourself as a Minister. For the livestock planner, difficulties are related not only to the complexity of livestock production systems but also to an inability to understand how these systems function, this is primarily a problem of quantification and comprehension. This will be key in value chain development, upgrading and governance. As long as farmers keep practising traditional ways of doing things and keep animals for prestige, then we will not transform the sub-sector. Engage the farmers in understanding market trends, diversifying the risks (not putting all eggs in one basket), improving offtake rates. Engage traditional livestock farmers on the need to diversify the risks by not keeping all their wealth in the form of large herds of livestock on communal land. It is worth noting that culturally, keeping large livestock herds is more important for social status in most provinces. This behaviour could be due to a lack of investment opportunities and a lack of a culture of banking and investment. One may argue that, concerning a poor culture of banking among traditional livestock farmers in unstable economies of developing countries, such as Zambia, the value of money is quickly lost through inflation as opposed to keeping money through cattle. However, this does not hold under poor husbandry practices where the risk of animal death from disease and under-nutrition is high. This is where the agribusiness or business development department becomes handy. The department will conduct an economic assessment of the local, regional and international markets and show the pros and cons transparently to avoid the situation of the Saudi Arabian goat and sheep markets, which in my opinion was not well coordinated. The department will also be engaged in the development of value chains and market models, which can easily fit into local, national and international markets. This department can also house an animal health promotion office. Using a WHO definition of health promotion, this office will be in charge of enabling farmers to increase control over and to improve the health of their animals and themselves. Health promotion moves beyond a focus on individual behaviour towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions, a term called community medicine in the medical field. The social determinants of animal disease are often poorly understood, leading to ineffective disease control measures (Mumba et al. 2017).
4. Funding has been a thorny issue in the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock. Some districts have only received K10, 000 the whole year. How do the officers operate without transport, fuel and other logistics? Prioritise funding to veterinary camps where operations of strategic national livestock subsector activities will be implemented. Additionally, in Zambia, difficulties associated with increasing sustainable animal production are exacerbated by limited public-sector investment and weak, ineffective support services. Avoid keeping more personal to holder vehicles at the head office at the expense of operations at the target unit. The Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock has seen several donor-funded programmes and projects. However, programmes and projects are often poorly designed and inadequately targeted, leading to the inefficient and fragmented allocation of scarce development resources.
5. Build resilient livestock production communities through smart agriculture. There is a lot to write about here but allow me to address it in a separate article. It is worth noting that the three pillars of reducing global warming are resilience, adaptation and mitigation. We have to be responsive to these pillars in our quest to transform the livestock subsector in Zambia.
I know that most politicians dislike addressing them through the media, but I believe in the bottom-up participatory approach, which I teach in systems thinking. Participatory approaches increase awareness and motivation among stakeholders, and also improve the implementation of policies. This is because participation gives birth to ownership. In systems thinking we say, “teach me, I will forget; show me, I may remember; but engage me, I will never forget”. Some stakeholders might be interested in this information, which if engaged in the preliminary stage, may come up with ideas during the debate, which this article is intending to initiate. I hope you will ignore the mode of delivery (media) and messenger (News Diggers) and pick one or two things from the message. I wish you all the best.
The author is a Senior Lecturer of Livestock/Animal Health Economics at the University of Zambia, School of Veterinary Medicine. Email: email@example.com, Mobile: +260977717258