Dear Mr Jobbicks Kalumba,
SUBJECT: Using scholl production units as a model for fisheries and livestock development for Zambia
Allow me to start by acknowledging and appreciating your good work, values and passion you have exhibited for the education sector in Zambia. I write this letter in reference to your plea to the Minister of Fisheries and Livestock, Prof Nkandu Luo, to also consider supporting schools with livestock which she is distributing under the stocking and restocking programme supported by the Enhanced Small Livestock Implementation Programme (ESLIP). You made this plea during the Sunday interview for 10th January 2021 on ZNBC. In response to your plea, the public received exciting news on 22nd March 2021 that the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock has allocated $250,000 to finance the establishment of fishponds in 100 schools as part of their production unit activities. I want to address you on using school production units as one of the models for developing the fisheries and livestock sector in Zambia.
Dear Sir, it is a very well-known fact that the livestock sector is currently growing faster than most other sectors in Zambia. The sector has continued on a positive trajectory despite the numerous challenges that have been posed by the current pandemic and difficulties in accessing certain inputs. That aside, the use of production units in schools as a model for fisheries and livestock development is worth exploring besides the current unsystematic distribution of goats and chickens to various women and youths groups (many of which are formed solely for receiving the livestock), which we have seen in the recent past. You crudely outlined how schools could participate in fisheries and livestock development for this country during the Sunday interview, much to my delight. In my opinion, I believe that the school production unit model will have far more benefits to this country than any other livestock development model, which we have seen. Why do I say so? Sir, you rightly put it that education is the future for this country, so is the fisheries and livestock sector regarding turning around the economic fortunes for this country. Allow me to add my input as to how schools can be used to turn around this country’s economy through fisheries and livestock production.
Dear Sir, all governments have openly declared that agriculture is the future of this country and that they would use it to turn around the economy. Talk about the Seventh National Development Plan, Vision 2030 and the current Economic Recovery Plan recently presented by President Edgar Chagwa Lungu. All these documents cannot go without mention of agriculture as a tool for export diversification agenda from copper to agriculture, of which fisheries and livestock are key subsectors. However, all these documents do not state how they will actualize these policy pronouncements. In short, they lack sustainable fisheries and livestock, development models. I have presented a number of models through my regular media articles and radio interviews, but to date, all have fallen on unfertile grounds. However, as a patriot Zambian, I will not tire, as I believe, one day, all or part of my advice on this topical subject will be considered. I am glad that you have joined me in singing this nice song that has already started bearing fruits like the example of Tungi School in Mongu. Recently, Lusaka Girls, Chunga secondary and my former school Anoya Zulu in Chipata had their first fish harvest. I believe that you are a much-needed messiah for developing fisheries and livestock through school production units. However, this model should not run without putting sustainable systems in place because doing so will end up being a disaster, just like many other livestock production models we have seen in the past. How can we put these systems in place?
Dear Sir, start by asking some brains, within or outside the Ministry of General Education, to write a detailed prototype, which will be easy to replicate many years after you are gone. Most initiatives have gotten it wrong because of the wrong or inexistent prototypes. This country is not short of such examples. Poor planning and lack of clear direction of where we want to be, has brought us where we are today. We have kept singing the song of “potential” in the fisheries and livestock sector, which has now even grown stale. Sir, I do not doubt that you can sing this song even louder and make the key audience dance to it as you have already started. Schools have structured governance systems with good monitoring and evaluation systems, ensuring the sustainability of such a project.
Furthermore, schools are in communities where it can be easy to run short courses for members of the public to learn how to grow fish and livestock. Here I would advocate for “Schools without walls” when it comes to community engagement with regards to short courses on fish and other livestock production training. This means that once this model is a success, schools can also be used as an economic hub or Practical Learning Fisheries and Livestock Hubs (PLFLH). This will be an evolution in the fisheries and livestock sector which will touch many lives, i.e. pupils or youths will have the skill to make money (create wealth), create employment, provide nutritional and food security, train communities on profitable fisheries and livestock production etc. This is true and sustainable youth empowerment, not the busses, cash and fuel tankers that we are giving them. Don’t give youths fish, instead, teach them how to fish, and you will be empowering generations.
Dear Sir, coming to the education system in Zambia, Africa and other developing countries, many are times that we have seen people criticizing it. People have argued that schools teach theories, and all our kids do is memorize formulas that they cannot use. We can change this narrative using fisheries and livestock farming in school production units by making pupils memorise the depth of a fishpond, the stocking density, the amount of water a chicken drinks per day, diseases affecting fish and animals etc. Education is a key pillar to national development and gives kids the competencies to grow up with them to function independently. How can we achieve this systematically using fisheries and livestock?
First of all, let us start by clearly defining our goal from this prototype. Other than schools making their own money and avoid dependence on government grants, for me, the main goal should be training a financially independent pupil (youth) who is nutritionally and food secure. To achieve this, we have to start by making agriculture science and production units mandatory in all secondary schools. Then we review the curriculum for agricultural science, which is currently biased towards crop production with no fish and animal production. Let us start by strengthening the curriculum to include basic fish production, animal production, animal health management, entrepreneurship and marketing. In line with this curriculum, we need to train teachers and support staff through short courses as we employ extension workers, animal scientists, veterinarians and other professionals who have done teaching methodology besides their professional qualifications. This means that schools will be making money, but pupils will be developing skills to grow crops, fish and livestock. I am against schools just making money without teaching these skills to our sons and daughters. Who would not want to see their son or daughter producing fish and livestock direct from school? This will make it much easier for these pupils to belong to cooperatives empowered with fisheries and livestock development. Empowering people with skills to produce is more sustainable than the current empowerment where unskilled cooperative groups receive the chicken today and slaughter or sell it the next day because they have no know-how. We have witnessed a scenario where chickens procured at K150 each and distributed to cooperatives are sold for K25 each the next day of receiving them. This will not be the case with the school-unit fisheries and livestock production model.
Dear Sir, this prototype’s success will depend on engaging all stakeholders in the education, fisheries and livestock sector. To this effect, I would like to bring to your attention the existence of the Veterinary Association of Zambia/Veterinary Council of Zambia and the Agricultural Institute of Zambia. These associations regulate professionals in charge of fisheries, livestock production, and animal health, which I believe are critical in the success of the school fisheries and livestock production units. Others stakeholders are School of A agricultural Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, agricultural colleges, Zambia National Farmers Union, NGOs like MUSIKA etc. Find means and ways of getting them involved through participatory monitoring and attachment to the established fisheries and livestock production units to provide up to date extension services and technical guidance of fish and livestock nutrition, genetics, reproduction, production, distribution and marketing through a value chain approach. We do not want a scenario where fish and livestock fail to grow because of a lack of technical interventions and sound advice on production, disease or nutrition when the experts are right under your nose. These technocrats will be required from the initial preparatory stages, guiding the production units from production to marketing, as all the stages will require a bit of technical know-how.
In conclusion, I emphasize that you put this prototype on paper so that future generations that will come after you will easily replicate it. Let these stakeholders help the Ministry of General Education to put sustainable systems for the fisheries and livestock in place so that schools can find it easy to produce, distribute, consume and dispose off consistently in a competitive environment. Bwana PS, Keep it up with the excellent work. I am available for any support Pro Bono.
Chisoni Mumba, PhD
Senior Lecturer of Livestock/Animal Health Economics at the University of Zambia, School of Veterinary Medicine. Email: [email protected], Mobile: +260977717258