By Friday Phiri
|Members of Pache-Pache group|
Africa’s potential to transform its economic fortunes through Agriculture is well documented. Even amidst the challenges posed by climate change, experts believe Africa has the opportunity to develop using a green economic pathway. However, the question is how?
The women of Munkonchi, a manganese rich rural community in Zambia’s Mkushi district may be answering this question with an emphatic ‘Yes we can’.
“Mining has a limited lifespan, but agriculture is an endless business activity”, says Joyce Kalaka Zulu, one of the 57 members of Pache-Pache Seed Growers Association.
Formed in 2011, the group is composed mainly of women who have taken it upon themselves to liberate their community from the mining dependency syndrome.
With an estimated combined acreage of up to hundred hectares, the Association cultivates an average of four to ten hectares each; an improvement which group Publicity Secretary, Evaness Kapemba Munsanje attributes to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) supported Program for Africa's Seed Systems (PASS) whose main aim is to provide higher-yielding seeds.
And now, women of Mukonchi are benefiting indirectly from a grant that was given to Steward Globe, trading as Afriseeds.
“We started by training the group in seed growing techniques and provided them with foundation seed to kick-start the programme after signing a contract with them”, says David Lungu, an Agronomist at Steward Globe.
Lungu adds: “Considering the poor market linkages that smallholders face, we are also providing a ready market for the seed they grow at competitive prices”.
And Sylvester Machishi, who labeled himself a repentant women rights abuser was full of praise of what the seed multiplication programme has done for his family.
“Before the training in entrepreneurship, I never allowed my wife to go for women club meetings nor standing before a gathering as she freely does nowadays”, he explains. “But am happy that this programme not only changed me personally but also changed the economic fortunes of my family”, adds Sylvester.
And AGRA Regional Head for East and Southern Africa Team, George Bigirwa says agriculture remains the surest means for Africa’s economic development.
“At AGRA, we believe that agriculture is the ultimate. And African smallholders require good seed varieties to achieve the desired potential”, concludes Bigirwa.
Created in 2006, born of a strategic partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation, AGRA aims at dramatically improving African agriculture, and to do so as rapidly as possible.
And the bold decision by Mukonchi women to ignore mining for agriculture could be an important step to realizing the African Agricultural revolution dream.