Sunday, December 01, 2013

Take risks to spur agriculture, advises Kwesiga
By Gift Chanda
Tue 22 Oct. 2013, 14:00 CAT

DEVELOPING countries like Zambia should be more willing to take risks that have the potential to spur agriculture productivity, says the African Development Bank.

In an interview, African Development Bank (AfDB) resident representative to Zambia Dr Freddie Kwesiga said Zambia had an opportunity to become a food breadbasket of the region and end poverty among the rising population but that it needed to take risky measures that would revolutionise the agricultural sector.

"Agriculture needs about five things: it needs improving productivity," he said. "The low levels of productivity here do not match our population demand."

Dr Kwesiga also said agriculture needed to be commercialised and stop being treated as a way of life. "You also need to have markets, invest in value addition and most importantly, you need to embrace technology through heavy investments in research and development," Dr Kwesiga added.

He said governments in Africa needed to place agriculture on top of their agenda if poverty, high youth unemployment and underdevelopment were to be addressed.

Dr Kwesiga said there was need to urgently improve infrastructure, expand power generation as well as promote regional integration and technology to enhance agriculture productivity.

He said these were part of the bank's core strategy beyond 2013.

"For 2013 and beyond, we have put science and technology as key. Look, the continent will have another 1 billion people in the next 25 years, what are they going to eat? Are we going to produce at this rate and feed another 25 million Zambians in the next 25 years? No! We must increase productivity," Dr Kwesiga said.

"Maize at its current standing is produced at about 1 tonne per hectare in Zambia but with a family of seven or eight, eating 700 kilogrammes per year, it means that a farmer who is producing 1 tonne is in a deficit of 1.4 tonnes to feed his family."

He said the bank was keen to see that countries like Zambia improve their agriculture productivity."Agriculture is and will remain the cornerstone of the bank's intervention. In countries like Zambia, we are working on irrigation, technology and energy generation as well as supporting agriculture research, and we will continue doing so," said Dr Kwesiga.

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