By HAPPY MULOLANI
Food security is one of the concerns among smallholder farmers which tend to have adverse effects on rural farming households. This is attributed to lack of knowledge on appropriate methods of producing food. To address this dilemma, government has reaffirmed its commitment through the Seventh National Development to increase food production by increasing productivity and nutrition at household level.
To achieve this goal, government has partnered with cooperating partners such as the Germany government (GIZ). Government’s partnership with GIZ through the AgriFood programme under Food and Nutrition Security, Enhanced project (FANSER) is aimed at enhancing smallholder and strengthen resilience in view of climate change through improving agriculture and food security of households in Katete and Petauke districts in Eastern province. The project is working to empower 56, 000 households.
This partnership has enabled key stakeholders to come on board to contribute towards improving rural livelihoods. To this end, FANSER is collaborating with other partners such as the National Food and Nutrition Commission and Catholic Relief Services, among others in the implementation of this project.
With this in mind, GIZ and various partners have developed appropriate materials meant to empower and equip farmers with vital information to enable farmers grow crops that are resilient to the devastating effects of climate change.
GIZ Agriculture and Food Security Programme Coordinator Moritz Heldmann says developing training materials for use in identified training sites is an ideal avenue in building the farmers’ capacities in their different farming enterprises.
“These training materials are to be disseminated to the district agriculture staff in Eastern province and will be utilized to build the required capacity of extension staff and the targeted households”, says Mr. Heldmann
He asserts that development and distribution of the materials through extension services will greatly contribute to the development of the agriculture sector as stipulated in the Second National Agriculture Policy through objective seven which focuses on “improving food and nutrition security.”
Mr. Heldmann explains that the Keyhole Garden manual has a number of benefits for households. Firstly, they are less labour intensive. Secondly, they are cheaper and easy to build using locally available materials. And thirdly, they consume less water as compared to a normal home garden.
He points out that while these legume training manuals are able to translate into increased household diversification, they also contribute to improved nutrition of the beneficiary groups.
It is envisaged these interventions will contribute to improved food and nutrition security of the farmers and overall status of the country’s food security levels.
The programme has produced materials on Keyhole Garden and beans and cowpeas as the key intervention areas of focus under the programme.
The following are the materials produced in English and also translated in specific vernacular languages. 1,000 booklets on Keyhole garden and 2,400 training flip charts while beans and cowpeas translated booklets in Nyanja are 15,000, 6,000 booklets in English and 2,400 training flip charts.
Although language can be a limiting factor to some farmers in accessing knowledge in their farming enterprises of interest, GIZ intends to support the translation of these manuals and booklets into other Zambian vernacular languages.
“Translations in other languages is also a priority, which the programme plans to undertake in order to reach out to a wider range of smallholder farmers and households”, acknowledges Mr. Heldmann.
He also reveals that GIZ is likely to scale-up interventions by extending to Luapula province. This pilot project is expected to target approximately 16,000 smallholder farmers.
And Department of Agriculture Deputy Director Charles Sondashi appreciates government’s collaboration with GIZ noting that the production of the materials is one of the key outputs.
Mr. Sondashi is elated with the efforts of GIZ and Ministry of Agriculture staff involved in the preparation and ultimate production of the materials.
He explains that the provision of the materials will assist in creating awareness among the target farmers and is particularly thankful for making translations that will enable a wider range of farmers’ accessibility to vital information on the food crops.
“The materials will also empower farmers with knowledge that they can use as they engage in their various farming activities,” says Mr. Sondashi.
And Principal Food and Nutrition Officer Nancy Chella is of the view that the provision of the books and manuals will help in scaling up the farmers food production and also improve their nutritional status.
“The significance of this collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture and GIZ has resulted in the developing of manuals and booklets, meant to equip farmers with knowledge in order to boost their food production and nutrition”, says Mrs. Chella.
Such an initiative is a milestone effort intended to improve smallholder farmers’ food production and nutrition. While GIZ has made tremendous headways in supporting and contributing towards food security, what is required is for more stakeholders to take a proactive approach in supplementing government, GIZ and other collaborating stakeholders efforts already involved in enhancing food security. Such an approach will result in concerted efforts leading to increased food production and nutrition among smallholder farmers.
Clearly, government has put in place policies to facilitate and support the increase of food production of smallholder farmers. This is premised on the understanding that policies alone are not adequate without any tangible support. As a consequence, GIZ’s support towards smallholder farmers through the provision of materials will ensure an increased knowledge base in the type of crops grown and also increased food production and nutrition as enshrined in the national development plans, which is a roadmap the country strives to achieve.-NAIS