Government says it realizes that the agricultural sector urgently requires capitalization in the fields of research and development, extension, and infrastructure development.
Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Emmanuel Chenda says governments the world over can only make prudent and sustainable policy decisions if the same are based on well researched and evidence based information.
Mr.Chenda was speaking in Lusaka today when he launched the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI, the successor to the Food Security Research Project.
He said the incorporation of the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute therefore comes at an opportune time when the country needs to develop a cost effective, transparent, efficient and sustainable agriculture sector.
Mr.Chenda also stated that Government is committed to developing and implementing the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) investment plan in line with the Patriotic Front manifesto.
He said government realizes that issues related to crop diversification, livestock disease control, agricultural marketing and input supply among others, are a priority in the country’s quest to develop the agricultural sector.
The Minister expressed confidence that once the CAADP investment plan is developed, cooperating partners and other stakeholders will be able to assist Government source and fund the various components in the plan.
Speaking at the same function, US Ambassador to Zambia Mark Storella stated that his government will over the next five years contribute over US$12 million to agriculture policy research in Zambia.
Ambassador Storella stated that agricultural growth is determined by the strength of a country’s policies and investment decisions, adding that informed policies will lead to reform in government programmes such as the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), increasing living standards and improving nutrition among the rural poor.
He said the US enthusiastically partners with Zambia’s new Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute to support Zambian farmers.
And Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute Executive Director Chance Kabaghe stated that policy implementation was critical if the country was to fully exploit the potential the agriculture sector possessed in order to make it more efficient, transparent and sustainable than it has been in the past.
Mr. Kabaghe noted with sadness that despite government intervention in ensuring food security in the country by initiating programmes like the Farmer Support Input Programme (FISP) poverty levels remain high.
He said the launch of the IAPRI is therefore important in finding solutions to challenges been faced in the agriculture sector, particularly in rising productivity in a bid to fight poverty.
And Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) Executive Director Ndambo Ndambo said low productivity and lack of diversification are among the top challenges been faced by the majority of farmers in the country hence the need for researchers to re-focus on productivity enhancement technologies and alternatives for diversification.
Mr. Ndambo urged government to create markets, saying market availability is a sure catalyst to agriculture diversification.
He noted that the majority of farmers are greatly disadvantaged because of poor access to market information and trade opportunities.