By Mwewa Mwansa
George Mutenge, a farmer in Njelesani village in Mansa district, which is about 40 kilometres away from Mansa is saddened at the deplorable state of the road
network in the district.
Mutenge says the current state of the roads has been affecting marketing of farmers produce, as transportation has been a challenge to the farming community in Mansa.
He says in order for farmers to transport their produce, they have to cross a dambo area, with caution by foot as vehicles are not able to pass and connect to the main road.
‘’For a long time, we have struggled to transport our produce to the market, because of the poor state of the road that connects our district to the main road, which is almost impassable,’’ says Mutenge.
He also says the only solution is to have a bridge constructed across the road to easily transport farmers produce to the markets.
Mutenge says the impassable roads have also affected the delivery of extension services, which farmers need to receive in terms of new agriculture technologies meant at increasing their productivity.
Another farmer Bernadette Mumba says farmers have been cut off by the streams and swampy areas in the district, noting that, if a bridge could be constructed soon, it will bring more productivity in the area as transportation of farm produce to the market will no longer be problematic.
Another farmer Melody Mwape says after farmers identified their problem, they opted to take responsibility to contribute to the road construction in the area.
‘’After we identified the problem, we decided to take responsibility of the situation and presented the problem to the District Agriculture Coordinator’s office for assistance, ‘’says Mwape.
Against this background, the community was linked to the Smallholder Productivity Promotion Programme (S3P), to assist them construct the bridge, that would see the farming community of Njelesani reconnected to the main road.
S3P is a programme under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL), funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which is tailored at assisting farmers with the improvement of infrastructure in farmers’ catchment areas.
The programme will also work towards improving agricultural and rural infrastructure and market linkages among other things. It is designed on the premise of accelerating growth of the smallholder agriculture to reduce poverty and investment in Zambia.
Extension Officer Michael Nondo says under S3P, farmers are supposed to contribute 25 per cent of the total cost of constructing the bridge while the project would finance 75 per cent.
He revealed that farmers paid upfront towards the bridge, which included stones, sand, site clearing of the road and also constructed the foundation of the bridge.
‘’It was good that farmers took up the initiative of identifying their needs and contributing towards the road construction,’’ he said.
Nondo expressed great satisfaction at the work that the people of Njelesani have so far done, which they started this year in June. He further said once the road is complete, it will address farmers marketing challenges.
‘’It was difficult for farmers to sell their produce due to the bad state of the road and also transport agricultural inputs,’’said Nondo.
He said when farmers identify a need and fully participate in projects that are their own ideas with support of intervention programmes such as S3P, they will own the infrastructure and such infrastructure will not be white elephants when such programmes phase out.
Mr. Nondo said the S3P project in the camp is supporting among other things, construction of two bridges, storage sheds where farmers can store their produce and bulking to help farmers market their produce at a strategic point.
‘’Projects such as S3P are meant to help us improve our agricultural productivity through enhanced infrastructure development, ‘’said Nondo.
And District Extension Methodologist, Peter Kalima said the project started operating in Mansa in 2014, and is operational in 12 camps in the district.
Mr. Kalima said the project is scheduled to build new camp houses, rehabilitate some of the old camp houses and has so far purchased three motor bikes for Camp Extension Officers and also 12 projects under infrastructure development have so far been approved.
S3P is in its third year of operation and this means that according to their plan, Muchinga province is the third province to come on board.
The programme is meant to target 60,000 smallholder households in production, productivity and sales of smallholder farmers in target areas. These include average crop yields in cassava, rice, mixed beans or groundnuts of 30,000 smallholder households and also address infrastructural challenges.
It is envisaged that S3P, will assist in building capacity to both farmers and extension staff in order to reach the goal of sustainably improving income levels, food and nutrition security for poor agricultural households in the programme areas.
It is therefore important for farmers to work in organised groups like the farmers of Njeleseni and identify their own needs in their respective farming communities, if they are to contribute to the development of their communities. -NAIS