EU PAVILION INTERVIEW: “€99-million EU financing for smallholder agriculture and commercial value chains on its way”

Welcome back to Agritech Expo! What are you most looking forward to at the event?
The European Union is looking forward to learning from smallholder farmers and agri-businesses, who are the main beneficiaries of our forthcoming 99M EUR "Sustainable Commercialisation of Zambia's Smallholder Farmers" programme, about their investments, challenges and opportunities. This will help us better understand how the European Union can support their activities in the future and promote greater integration of Smallholder farmers in profitable value chains.

We are also excited to present and explain our ongoing development programmes in the agricultural sector to the participants. These initiatives further demonstrate the long-term commitment of the European Union and its member states to making agriculture an inclusive private sector business contributing to jobs creation and growth in Zambia.

Photographs caption: At last year’s Agritech Expo Zambia, the EU and Zambia signed a multi-million euro Financing Agreement for the "Sustainable Commercialisation of Zambia's Smallholder Farmers" Programme. From left to right are: the Ambassador of the European Union, H.E. Alessandro Mariani, Zambian President Edgar Lungu and Fredson Yamba, Secretary to the Treasury at the Zambian Ministry of Finance.

What in your view do the European agri industry and suppliers have to offer Zambia?
In one word: "experience".

The European agri industry and suppliers are at the technological forefront of this ever changing sector. They have excellent technical and commercial knowledge as well as many years of invaluable expertise in Africa.

They are ready to support and to contribute to boosting agriculture in Zambia by investing in agricultural value chains and by facilitating trade and market access for Zambian agricultural products through innovative business models and technologies. Their presence in the Expo each year is proof of their interest and commitment to Zambia.

Which companies and what kind of products and services will be on display at the European Union pavilion in Chisamba this year?
The European Union will be showcasing ongoing and forthcoming projects aimed at improving rural livelihoods and nutrition in Zambia. In partnership with development banks such as the European Investment Bank we will support private sector investments that integrate commercially oriented smallholder farmers into agricultural and aquaculture value chains to improve their access to inputs, markets, as well as extension and financial services. Moreover, European Union projects promote climate smart agriculture and sustainable water management and smallholder irrigation systems.

Finally, the European Union fights malnutrition in Zambia by contributing to the Scaling Up Nutrition Fund through funding four NGOs that will be showcasing their work in the EU pavilion.

What in your view are the main challenges facing Zambia’s agricultural sector – your thoughts on how the agri community can overcome these challenges?
The challenges facing Zambia's agricultural sector are numerous, well known and mainly affecting smallholder farmers. They range from land degradation and unsustainable use of natural resources, insufficient crop diversification away from maize to limited access to quality inputs, technologies, mechanisation financing and extension services, and better access to markets, just to name a few.

However, these challenges are definitely not insurmountable and could significantly be alleviated through increased responsible private sector investments, improved connectivity and market integration and improved technological innovations. Together with an enabling environment, a dynamic and innovative private sector will be the key driver for change. As such, the Agritech Expo is all the more relevant!

What makes the agricultural sector in Zambia exciting?
There is wide consensus about the key role that Zambia's agriculture can play towards fostering economic growth, job creation and development in the country. Private sector investments through effective partnerships between agri-businesses, key public and private actors and farmers' organisations are essential for unlocking this potential.

Because of its importance and considerable potential Zambia's agricultural sector is exciting because of all the existing opportunities, due to ample land and water resource, fertile soils and favourable climate. The ingredients are there to develop a productive agro industry, triggering inclusive economic growth and job opportunities in the rural sector. As of today, this potential remains relatively untapped but offers huge opportunities for development. The EU, will play an important role in invigorating the sector and facilitating it to fulfil its true potential.

How important is Agritech Expo as an annual forum for the farming sector in this region?
Zambia has the ambition to be the breadbasket of the region and a regional marketing hub. The Agritech Expo plays a vital role to achieve this ambition.

What will be your message at Agritech Expo this year?
Our message will be that we should all join forces to make Zambia's agriculture the inclusive private sector business that it has the potential to become! With our new 99 MEUR programme, we will help to get the ball rolling.