U.S. farming body, Zambian firm partner aim to boost crop yields

Country rebuilding drought-battered ag sector

Lusaka | Reuters — A U.S. non-profit organization has launched a US$40 million joint venture with one of Zambia’s top farm suppliers to boost crop yields and food security as farmers struggle to access finance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the local company said on Sunday.

The chairman of African Green Resources (AGR), Zuneid Yousuf, said the private sector deal with U.S-based African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) included a scheme supporting 250,000 mainly subsistence farmers to double their maize yields and help feed around 10 million people in Zambia and the southern African region.

“AFAP’s role is not only sourcing fertilizer guarantees and credit lines, but to also act as an adviser for downstream activities like value addition,” Yousuf told Reuters in his Lusaka offices.

Credit packages for seed, fertilizer and training will be provided to the farmers, while plans are also being made to use soybeans and maize to produce animal stock feed, among other products, Yousuf said.

In the 2018-19 crop season, Zambia’s national average yield rate for maize was 2.52 tonnes per hectare, far below Egypt at eight tonnes and South Africa at four tonnes. Zambia’s 2019-20 season maize production is projected to increase to over 3.3 million tonnes from around two million tonnes in the previous season but is still below potential, Yousuf said.

The southern African nation is rebuilding an agriculture sector hit hard by a recent drought, with small-scale subsistence farmers who produce over 90 per cent of Zambia’s maize, losing access to markets and seeing a dip in productivity as they battle the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Zambia has reported 1,416 confirmed coronavirus cases and 11 deaths.

— Reporting for Reuters by Chris Mfula.

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