logo

GOVT ROLLS OUT E-EXTENSION TO BOOST AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITY

By DORCAS KABUYA

The Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with its partners, has embarked on an initiative to enhance agricultural digital extension within its existing framework, aiming to disseminate and facilitate access to agricultural information across the country.

Working alongside partners such as the World Food Programme (WFP), the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, the Ministry convened an E-Extension Stakeholders Engagement Meeting to reach more farmers and increase productivity.

Officiating at the meeting, Department of Agriculture Director, Dr. Chizumba Shepande, noted that enhancing e-extension services aligns with Zambia’s strategic vision outlined in the Eighth National Development Plan (8NDP), emphasising the pivotal role of digital skills in propelling the nation towards a thriving digital economy.

Dr. Shepande emphasised the critical role of extension services in ensuring food and nutrition security and reducing poverty among the farming community highlighting that these services play an important role in providing farmers with timely information, which is essential for improving agricultural productivity.

“Recognising the significance of this endeavour, government has committed itself to establishing a dynamic extension and information system in line with Presidential Directives to achieve production targets for maize, soybeans and wheat by 2027,” he noted.

Dr. Shepande indicated that e-extension is not intended to replace conventional extension service delivery; rather, it is meant to complement traditional methods, particularly in light of technological advancements and recent outbreaks of pandemics such as COVID-19 and Cholera.

“Enhancing e-extension resonates with the overarching e-Government agenda explained in the National Electronic Government Plan which underscores the comprehensive digitalisation of crucial government systems and services,” he noted.

Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, Researcher on Climate Finance and Digital Agricultural Services, Pedro Chilambe, disclosed that his institution which is part of the CGIAR has two initiatives namely Systems Transformation for Climate Resilience, and Diversification and Intensifications of Maize Mixed Systems with Zambia as a focus country in Southern Africa.

Mr. Chilambe indicated that within the two initiatives the goal is to expand digital agricultural advisory services and prove tools to support the derisking of small holder farmers.

“We are providing support to the Ministry of Agriculture for a period of one year to improve its existing e-extension information system. The ministry has a website with rich knowledge products but has challenges in reaching the end-users who are extension officers and the small scale farmers,” he explained.

Mr. Chilambe further noted that the idea behind the engagement meeting is to understand the current challenges in disseminating the generated information and the types of information that should be included on the platform in order to support extension officers with technical information to reach farmers regardless of location.

“We aim to provide access to e-extension system to possibly three million farmers in Zambia the through the various channels where this e-extension platform can be linked and help the government in reaching its intensification goals for 10 million tonnes of maize, 1 million Tonnes of wheat and 1 million tonnes of soybeans,” he stressed.

And Zola Mandaba an Agricultural Extension Officer from Kabwe’s Kawama Agricultural Camp who participated in the meeting noted that the e-extension system is a plus for ministry as it would help bridge the farmer to extension ratio. – NAIS