Extension service delivery remains challenge in Zambia and in the long-run has slowed the access and adoption of new technologies by smallholder farmers.
Currently, agriculture contributes 18% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with the livestock sector contributing 42% to the agriculture gross domestic product. In addition, the agriculture sector has recorded an average growth of 7% in the period of 2008 – 2012 – a clear indicator of the Sector’s potential.
In March this year Zambia launched its Second National Agricultural Program; and the Strategy on the National Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services for the Ministries of Agriculture and; Fisheries and Livestock respectively.
This 2016-2020 Policy and its implementation plan encompass key facets of the country’s agricultural sector which include: agricultural diversification, increased food & nutrition security, improved production and productivity and; improved agricultural research and extension delivery services.
The Policy also intends to explore opportunities for renewed investment in both the agricultural with the aim of triggering the growth of the sector in line with the National Agricultural Investment Plan (NAIP) under the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP).
Speaking during the launch, Agriculture Minister, Dora Siliya, noted that improved extension delivery services was an effective strategy in disseminating improved technologies to farmers so as to increase their production and productivity.
“…Our farmers have not had access to new and improved technologies for them to attain increased agricultural production and production…Currently, one camp extension officer provides extension services to over 1000 farmers compared to the ideal ration of one extension officer to 400 farmers. This situation is undesirable as it makes it difficult for farmer to be reached out in terms of dissemination extension messages.” Miss Siliya said.
This situation has been exacerbated by insufficient transport for extension officers hence restricting their mobility and reach to a larger group of farmers.
Extension services are a cardinal channel of information and technology transfer. Considering the fact that smallholder farmers in Zambia account for 90% of national maize production (www.wfp.org), extension delivery to them is key in ensuring national food security and productivity.
As he echoed Miss Siliya’s concerns, Fisheries and Livestock Minister, Michael Katambo, said that the strategy on agricultural extension and advisory services was intended to provide various stakeholders in extension services delivery, with a framework within which to deliver effective and diverse extensions services to smallholder farmers.
“The Strategy offers guidelines that will help ensure efficient utilization of scarce resources, eliminate dissemination of distorted and conflicting extension messages and improve on the adoption and adaptation of innovative technologies.” Mr. Katambo said.
In January 2016, the Government launched the Zambia Forum for Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services (ZAFAAS) - another effort to improve extension service delivery to farmers. The independent organization is mandated to strengthen stakeholder participation in extension and advisory services. Now enforced with the Strategy on the National Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services implementation plan in place, it is hoped that extension delivery to farmers will be marked with visible progress.