The importance of the agricultural sector in Southern Province cannot be overemphasized. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood of many people in the province and country as a whole, both in urban and rural communities. Over 98% of the rural communities in the province directly depend on agriculture, while over 70% of the urban population and businesses in the province survive from the multiplier effect of agricultural related activities. The province contributes a relatively larger portion to the overall sector GDP contribution of around 20% to the national cake. The agriculture sector already provides larger employment opportunities than any other sector in the province.
Southern Province small-scale farmers, are predominantly crop farmers and are also involved in both small livestock production and cattle rearing. Crop Production is the mainstay, followed by livestock production and then fisheries.
The crops sector is dominated by maize production. The past decade has seen the majority of small-scale farmers relying on maize production, both as a staple food and cash crop. However, the call for diversification has been very loud in the province and has resulted into a steady increase in the production on of Soya Beans, Wheat (Though largely grown by commercial Farmers), Sunflower, Groundnuts, Cotton, Sorghum, Millet, Cow Peas, Irish potatoes, Sweet Potatoes and Horticultural Production.
Vision, Mission, and Mandate of the Ministry of Agriculture
The Vision of the Ministry of Agriculture is “to be a committed, focused and proactive institution that provides quality agricultural goods and services which assures food and nutrition security, increased incomes and contribute to poverty reduction”.
The mission of the agricultural sector is “to promote the development of an efficient, competitive and sustainable agricultural sector, which assures food security and increased income”.
The mandate of the Ministry of Agriculture as provided for in the Government Gazette Notice No. 836 of 2016 is to ensure that there is; Agricultural Credit, Agricultural Development, Agricultural Marketing Policy, Agricultural Research and specialist services, Agricultural Training, Agriculture Policy, Agricultural Extension, Field Services, Food Security, Irrigation Development and Seed standard and grades.
The following are departments in the Ministry of Agriculture in Southern Province; Department of Agriculture, Marketing and Agribusiness, Policy and Planning, Seed Control and Certification Institute, Zambia Agriculture Research Institute and Human Resource and Administration with the following units, Financial Management Unit and National Agricultural Information Services.
Demographic Features and Farming Households.
The Southern Province population is estimated at 1,212,124 (2000 Census), 85% of which live in the rural area. Females make up 51% of the total population and the males 49%.
There is an estimated total of 204,398 households of which 175,754 are farm households. The number of farmer households rose from 144,201 in 2009 as more farmers were captured through the on-going farmer registration in all agricultural camps at District level.
The Province has 43 agricultural blocks and 220 camps. All the Agricultural Camps are currently manned, while only 28 Agricultural Blocks are manned.
Number of Farmers
|SN||District||Size(Ha)||Arable Land(Ha)||Camps||Blocks||Small Scale Farmers||Farming Households|
The farmer to camp extension officer ratio is still relatively higher side at about 1: 1,200, creating an opportunity for the private sector to partner up with the government in the provision of extension services. The long-term solution is the demarcation of some camps which are seemingly big.
Major Agricultural Activities and Opportunities.
The Province is mainly Agricultural based with the presence of both commercial and small-scale farmers. The Small-scale farmers constitute almost 90 percent of the farming populace. Commercial farmers are engaged in Livestock production and growing cash crops such as tobacco, coffee, Sugarcane, Soya beans, Wheat, Vegetables, and fruits. Small-scale farmers, on the other hand, are predominantly Maize growers and are also involved in both small livestock production and cattle rearing. Crop Production is, therefore, the mainstay amongst small-scale farmers, followed by Livestock Production and then Fisheries.
Maize Production and the Crop Diversification Call.
Maize production is predominant among small-scale farmers. Due to various reasons, maize production figures have been fluctuating over the past 10 years.
The Crop Diversification Agenda- Seizing the Opportunity
However, an opportunity to invest in the agricultural sector in the province has arisen as a result of the persistent call for diversification. The province has enormous potential to expand agricultural production in the crops sub-sector. The subsector has over the years been dominated by maize production. Low production and productivity have, however, characterized the crop. There has been over dependency on rain-fed agriculture thereby making the sector vulnerable to adverse weather conditions such as low and unevenly distributed rainfall that has entrenched the region in recent seasons. However, in order to realize the potential of the sector amidst all these pitfalls, the province has embarked on an aggressive crop diversification campaign and promotion. Soya beans, groundnuts, sunflower, cassava, millet, cowpeas, cotton, and sorghum, are some of the crops identified to push the agenda of crop diversification forward, in accordance with regional comparative advantage. Sugarcane and wheat are some of the crops that the province will promote at the out-grower scheme and commercial levels in line with the crop diversification programme.
Crop Diversification, therefore, creates an opportunity for the private sector to invest in the actual crops earmarked for diversification, but also to invest in relevant infrastructures such as irrigation schemes, value addition infrastructure, processing equipment, agro dealership and input supply. The production figures for these crops over the past 10 years are as shown below.
Production Potentials of others crops over the past decade
Crop Diversification in Practice.
Tomato Production Pumpkin Production
Cow Pea Production Irish Potato Production.
Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) and Input Supply Opportunities
The province has continued to benefit from the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) where over 1,300,000 farmers have benefited from the programme the past 9 years. The programme has changed form and names during this period. It has progressively moved from Conversion System to E-Voucher System over the past 3 years, with all districts implementing the E-Voucher system in the 2017/2018 farming season. The transformation of the distribution system has seen a lot of opportunities being created in the input supply value chain. Agro-dealership has been on the increase in the past three years with Agro- dealers seizing the opportunity by opening up agro shops in outlying areas of the province. The number of beneficiaries under FISP has been increasing over the years as shown in the table below.
Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) over the past 10 Years.
Conservation Agricultural Technologies.
Southern province is in the Agricultural Region 1 and 2a. This region has experienced the adverse effects of climate change. Production and productivity of various crops have been on a downward fall for farmers using traditional ways of farming. Agricultural technologies such as Conservation Agriculture have proved to be so valuable to farmers that have adopted them.
Conservation Agriculture practices.
This maize was grown on the same day and fields are only 20metres apart. The first farmer used CA and the second did not.
Collaborating Partners and Projects Working with the Ministry.
GRZ Budget Performance.
The funding levels for the Ministry, over the years, have been reducing due to the constrained treasury and increasing needs, it is expedient therefore that collaborating partners come on board to partner with government in the agricultural sector. The GRZ funding levels are as shown in the figure below;
The Ministry has over the years working with different projects to fill up this void. These projects have been working through the different departments in the province and in selected districts depending on their legibility criteria.
Enhanced Small Holder Agribusiness Promotion Programme (E-SAPP).
The programme goal of E-SAPP is “to increase the incomes, and food and nutrition security of rural households involved in market-oriented agriculture’’. Its Programme Development Objective (PDO) is to “increase the volume and value of agribusiness outputs sold by smallholder producers”. The project is being implemented through two technical components; 1) Enabling Environment for Agribusiness Development Growth and 2) Sustainable Agribusiness Partnerships. The programme does not have a geographical focus but is working in three (3) core commodity groups which are Legumes, Rice, Small livestock, and Aquaculture.
The programme has currently assessed 81 projects that were funded under the predecessor project, Small Holder Agribusiness Promotion Programme (SAPP), for possible additional funding. The project will soon call for proposals for new projects around the province.
Provincial Team assessing women groups in Kalomo District Provincial Team assessing women groups in Namwala District
Provincial Team assessing women groups in Choma District Provincial Team assessing women groups in Kalomo District