By MWIINGA MUKUWA
Lack of financial capital has continued to be a major challenge among farming communities in Luapula province.
In trying to address financial constraints among farmers, the Enhanced Smallholder Agribusiness Promotion Programme (E-SAPP), has introduced two key interventions the matching grant facility and the Farming as a Business Schools (FaaBS) model. In these FaaBS, farmers are taught agronomic practices in beans production.
Senior Marketing Development Officer for Luapula province, Phidelis Mazuba stressed that lack of capital has been a major challenge among farmers of which these grants will help in commercialisation of agriculture among farming groups through provision of capital.
The main objective of the E-SAPP project is to enhance commercialisation of agriculture through use of (FaaBS) and provision of matching grant facility.
In an interview, Mr Mazuba said the provision of the matching grant fund propels production and value addition of agriculture produce, while the FaaBS learning model aims at increasing production and productivity.
These FaaBS usually target small-scale farmers who are unable to raise huge amounts of capital to help them increase agricultural production and productivity.
The project is currently promoting the production of different beans varieties such as Kabulangeti, white beans and Lusaka beans among farming communities in Chipili district. Declared a district through a presidential directive in 2018, the district is 65 Kilometres away from mansa town, along the mansa Luwingu road in the Northern part of Luapula Province. The large part of Chipili district is a plateau, while a small part comprises of a valley which is in Musonda B. it consists of a number of water bodies and Dambos. The district is divided into five Agriculture camps namely Chipili, Mwenda, Kanami, Lupososhi and Mukanga Camp respectively.
Currently the Beans program under the ESAPP project is being implemented in Luposhi and Kalundu Camp in Chipili district.
Over time, Chipili district is renowned for being a beans production area and it is envisaged that its present production capacity can be doubled with the provision of improved beans varieties and agronomic practises to boost the food security levels and increased sales. During the 2019/2020 farming season Chipili district had about 2,860 beans farmers of which the district recoded about 1, 859.10 metric tonnes of beans .
However, the beans growers are faced with challenges such as the increased cost of inputs such as insecticides, fungicides, and foliar fertilisers.
Owing to lack of a proper market structure, the district only has one crop bulking centre which is inadequate to support farmers in the district.
He further said that in this coming season farmers will also be learning how to produce groundnuts in FaaBS here in the province.
He explained that there are three categories which are available under the E-SAPP matching grant facility of which the first one is support strategic linkages for graduating substantive farmers to the market.
“The farmers who will graduate from Chipili will qualify, Last season 704 farmers graduated these qualify to access the grants under category A,” said Mr Mazuba.
He explained that under Category A, these farmers can apply for a maximum of USD 150,000, here farmers need to contribute 10 Percent towards the grant and 90 percent comes from the E-SAPP, in the second category B that is where we offer support to the small and Medium Enterprises that are actors in the core E-SAAP commodity which can apply for a maximum of USD 150,000, E-SAPP contributes 60 percent were as the applicant matches up 40 percent towards the grant.
Mr Mazuba stressed that in the third category C, facilitates Pro-small holder market-pull Agribusiness partnerships, applicants can apply for a maximum sum of USD 350,000, the applicants contributes 50 percent and also E-SAPP contributes 50 percent towards the grant.
He said the cooperative groups should be registered either by registrar of societies or registrar of cooperatives for them to access these grants.
Mr Mazuba said the project has trained 704(Plus 32) farmers and 16 officers under the Ministry of agriculture from Chipili District were the project is promoting beans production.
“The total number of beneficiary farmers is 2,387, we have already trained 704 farmers in two camps Kalundu and Lupososhi and this year we shall train 1,360 farmers in four new camps namely Musele, Kashimba, Mukonshi and Mwenda central agriculture camps,” said Mr Mazuba.
He said the project through the Ministry of Agriculture conducted trainings which were designed to operate at field level, in farming as a business school (FaaBS).
Mr Mazuba noted that the FaaBS is designed to operate at field level with the aim of building small holder farmer capacity in entrepreneurial and agri-business management skills.
The trainings also applied the “learning by doing” approach which enables small-scale farmers to learn and improve their knowledge, enhance their skills in production practices, agri-business, aimed at changing the attitudes and approaches towards farming.
He stressed that through these trainings farmers were taught how to do market survey.
“Before they venture into any business farmers identify the potential market for their produce, farmers go into the production of a crop were they are assured of market, the farmer starts with the market and ends with the market,” said Mazuba.
He said in places were farmers have market challenges with storage shade facilities, they are encouraged to apply for matching grant to be used for construction of a storage shade .
And Chipili District, Acting Senior Agriculture Officer Lameck Zimba said the Faabs were using the participatory extension approach were farmers learn by doing through sharing of their knowledge and experiences.
He said the Faabs have provided farmers a structured experience in which they learn the theory and practice farming as a business and they can be able to implement the skills on their own farms.
“The schools have enabled farmers to be linked to other value chain players or beans traders from Mansa and the copperbelt, the main primary need of the private beans trader is to have a constant supply of beans,” He said.
He noted that the beans trader would help farmers understand the quality of beans demanded on the local market in Mansa and Copper belt province.
He explained that the Faabs approach was successful in ensuring that women and youth headed households benefit from a market oriented agriculture as evidenced by the number of women and youths who participated in the weekly field trainings.
Mr Zimba stressed that farmers now understand the advantage of applying nitrogen based fertiliser to poor soil and insecticide /fungicides to combat pest, diseases for better yields and more profits.
He noted that prolonged rainfall experienced in the districts caused some serious post-harvest challenges to harvest beans, some percentage of the crop was lost due to excessive moulding.
He advised that planting of beans in region three should be done towards the end of February to avoid picking beans when they are wet from rains or due helps control the spread of fungus.
“The best practice to reduce chances of pests developing resistance, is through alternating insecticides and spraying weekly, “He explained.
The Faabs established that the recommended practice growing beans through use of fertiliser, pest control, weeding can lead to higher yield as observed in the one Lima experiment beans plot as compared to the other one Lima control plot.
For instance, in Lupososhi Camp, in the fitungulu Faabs the yields from One Lima experiment plot was 140 Kg were as the control plot produced a yield of 20 kg, under the Mboko Faabs the yield from one lima experiment plot was 95 Kgs were as in the one Lima control plot produced a yield of 5Kgs and in Kafita Faabs the yields from one Lima experiment plots were 100 Kgs were as a one lima control plot produced a yield of 15 kg.
And in kalundu Camp, from the mweshi Faabs the yield from a one Lima experiment plot were 70 Kgs compared to a one Lima control which produced 10 Kgs
And a Lead farmer Kabulo Mweshi in kalundu Camp explained that in Faabs they were taught agronomic practices in bean production. He said they were taught how to prepare ridges, plant beans, spacing, chemical application and management of the crop in the field.
“We were using two demo plots were we planted beans using the tradition methods, we planted in the field using one gallon seed without using fertiliser and One gallon in the other field was planted using fertiliser. The field were we planted one Gallon without fertiser produced 7 Gallons and the other field were fertiser was used produced 26 Gallons,” He Said.
Mr Mweshi encouraged his fellow farmers to utilise the knowledge they had learnt unlike using traditional methods which produced less yields.
He noted that they started lessons in beans production in October last year and the trainings ended in April this year.
He noted that they have applied for a grant under the E-SAPP project so that they can be empowered with funds to be used in beans production.
Another lead farmer Osward Mapoma in Lupososhi Camp thanked the E-SAPP for bringing the beans program in the area.
He said with the Vision the farmers have of working as an out grower schemes would boost beans production with the assistance from the project.
“we have realized that our old tradition ways of farming are not for business, but consumption, but this time if we follow the right agronomic practices, this can increase production, like other countries are known for producing coffee, we also want our country to be known for producing legumes, so that we can supply the legumes all over Africa,” He said.
He urged his fellow farmers to continue using the knowledge they were taught production of rice, beans and fish farming.
In conclusion, matching grants would enhance the farmer’s capacity to produce beans through use of improved beans varieties and agronomic practices to boost the food security levels and increased income generation.
By MWIINGA MUKUWA