The first stop was Lundazi District, situated 185 kilometers from the Provincial Capital Chipata, and known for being one of the highest producers of maize in the country coming mostly from small- scale farmers in the district.
As morning dawned of 21st November, it was clear that no farmer wanted to be left behind as the venue was flocked with a horde of farmers queuing up to register to be part of the event.
Dubbed “Enhancing Market Access Through Aggregation”, the event attracted 170 farmers drawn from 38 Farmer groups, including exhibitions from 14 companies that signed up to be part of the event. The objective of the event was to generate solutions to the existing difficulties in accessing markets thereby provide valuable stimulus for the promotion of aggregation among farmers.
The event which was organized through SNV under the Sustainable Integrated Land Management project (SILMs) with support from the Swedish government, brought together different key players in agribusiness sector including farmers that are currently practicing Climate Smart Agriculture, cooperatives, agribusiness companies, local government and development partner organizations operating in Zambia.
Speaking during the event, Lundazi District Commissioner, Janet Palukani said government is committed to and encourages the formation of cooperatives.
She said cooperatives help improve relations between government and farmers as government can better understand the needs of groups and therefore channel policies to address these needs.
“Collaboration is very important and is the matchstick that fuels innovation. As government, we believe that in exchanging ideas and knowledge through platforms such as this one, information suited to provide real ingredients that will suggest answers and options to challenges that confront us is provided,” she said.
Elemiyah Nyirongo, from Mwase one camp in Lundazi shared his success story on the power of aggregation and highlighted the benefits of working as a group, such as; easier access to market, reduced transportation costs and better price bargaining power.
During the course of the event, discussions were held with a focus on farmer aggregation. Exhibitors were also given time to present to the audience the products they offer to Agribusiness and the uniqueness of their products and services.
The participants also had time to ask questions about the products and services that they were being offered by different exhibitors.
Second stop: Katete
The second stop for the platform was Katete District which lies 182 kilometers from the Capital, Chipata. The event saw a record turnout of over 250 farmers drawn from 50 Cooperatives, with 15 companies in line in to showcase to the participants opportunities of their products and technologies, programs, services, and achievements.
The event started with opening remarks from the Katete District Commissioner Mr. Joseph Makukula who reiterated on the need for farmers to appreciate the benefits of bulking and aggregating produce.
He said government is committed to addressing shortcomings of some of the policy gaps that hinder the progress of cooperatives development in Zambia. He said government intends to revise the Cooperative Act to enable and accelerate the transformation of cooperatives into sustainable entities.
Mr. Makukula said value addition will only happen when cooperatives have established a sustainable flow of agri-raw material, which can only be achieved through aggregation.
He said in the cooperative development strategic plan that is being developed to run until the year 2021, government plans to seek out market oriented farmer organisations in order to empower them in various ways such as through trainings, needs assessment, market and resource linkages.
The Commissioner said this strategy further aims to increase the farmer- cooperative inspector ratio to 20 to 1.
“With this strategy it implies that cooperatives that do not become business minded, miss opportunities to become competitive. This is evidence that indeed government is a key partner in seeing development through cooperatives,” he said.
The platform focused on information sharing, dialogue and interaction and connections between different stakeholders to address various key issues in the Agribusiness sector particularly market access.
Mr. Lubinda Kabwata, an exhibitor from Export Trading Group (ETG), a company famous in Zambia for supplying a wide variety of crop farming inputs and livestock products to farmers, said he was happy that farmers got a chance to have answers to some of the challenges they face, as they prepare for the agriculture season which has began.
He said his company was happy to share information on quality agro inputs and market opportunities for farmers as the company has structured a business operation to support the whole agricultural value chain.
The Platform was closed officially on Friday, November, 23rd 2018 by AgriProFocus Zambia Country Coordinator Ms. Yvonne Mtumbi who advised farmers to embark on aggregation strategies within their cooperatives to ensure they achieve economies of scale along agricultural value chains.
She said aggregation strategies help farmers to meet standards of modern markets and address barriers to access markets and agricultural inputs.
Ms. Mtumbi later thanked all the exhibitors, for the tremendous collaboration making the platforms successful. She also thanked all the farmers that participated and encouraged them to keep working together as only then will they achieve maximum profits for their produce.