Christian Aid, funded by the Scottish Government, today launches an innovative new project in Zambia. The project, called Making Agriculture a Business, will support some of the poorest and most marginalised farmers in Central Province. The beneficiaries will be women and people living with disabilities. The project will run for five years.
Bellah Zulu, Communications Officer for Christian Aid Zambia explains what the project will mean for small farmers.
Most farmers and enterprises in rural areas of Zambia tend to be small scale, unstructured and homebased with little opportunity for growth. But limited business skills are not the only obstacle facing ambitious Zambian farmers. Socio-cultural barriers are disempowering women, leaving them unable to speak up for themselves or able to influence policy and practice.
However, Christian Aid Zambia works closely with Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ) to support women through community microcredit and savings groups, and to promote business skills, entrepreneurship and market value chains.
Kingsley Cheelo, Christian Aid’s Programmes Coordinator for Economic Empowerment in Zambia emphasised the importance of this new project: 'By the end of the project, beneficiaries will have acquired skills in business development, management and financial literacy.'
Renewable energy key to production
As well as limited access to markets, small farmers struggle with unreliable, unaffordable energy supplies.
The Making Agriculture a Business project will support local groups to develop renewable energy solutions such as solar powered boreholes and refrigeration units. Solar powered irrigation systems will also be developed, providing a less labour-intensive and more efficient use of water and helping to increase productivity among women farmers.
It is hoped that, as productivity increases and the means to store the produce improves, famers will have greater bargaining power at market.
The next step will be to cluster farmers in order to guarantee a continuous supply of produce to market at the best prices.
Turning agriculture into viable business
Karen Sichinga, Executive Director of CHAZ said that her organisation was delighted that the Making Agriculture a Business project would support communities to turn their subsistence farming into profitable agro-industries.
'This project fits well with the work of CHAZ - promoting a holistic approach to the well-being and livelihoods of our rural communities and contributing to Zambia’s economic development.'
In Scotland, Christian Aid has committed to raise £20,000 to complement the Scottish Government funding. We are looking for churches who would fundraise over the five year period of the project to contribute to the £20,000 total. If you would like to get involved, contact Mary Mulligan in the Edinburgh office.