FQM SAYS EARLY INPUT DELIVERY IS VITAL TO INCREASING FARMING EFFICIENCY

As 527 farmers are assisted with inputs, training, monitoring and mentorship for maize, soya and groundnut production.

KALUMBILA, ZAMBIA – Early distribution of farming inputs is essential to improving agriculture productivity each farming season – which helps ensure food security for rural areas, according to First Quantum Minerals (FQM).

“On time” is one of the principles of FQM’s Conservation Farming scheme. The mining firm’s Trident Foundation Agricultural Livelihoods Team in Kalumbila District of North-Western Province prides itself on ensuring that inputs are delivered promptly and that targets are met by the scheme farmers.

The Trident Foundation Conservation Farming project assisted more than 527 farmers in the 2017/2018 farming season with subsidised inputs, training, monitoring and mentorship for maize, soya and groundnut production.

“Despite farmers grappling with the challenge to keep their fields weed free, they were able to harvest and average of 85.6 (50kg) bags of maize per hectare,” said FQM’s Trident Foundation Livelihoods Supervisor, Peter Ngandu.

The conservation farming project has been running for over five years, and has helped local farmers triple their yields. The Trident Foundation aims to encourage and maintain sustainable farming, the core of conservation farming.

Mr Ngandu explained the livelihoods projects aim to stop “dependency syndrome”, by training farmers in sustainable conservation farming, while raising rural farmers’ incomes.

“We expect farmers to be independent – buying their own inputs and running their fields without any reliance on the mine. We can train, teach and encourage farmers to do their best. But it is their own responsibility to act on the advice and realise better and higher yields for their own good,” he said.

“In the 2017,2018 season, farmers paid 50 percent of inputs and the company covered the other 50 percent. We have found that the high subsidy has negatively impacted the potential of the programme to be sustainable, and in the 2018/2019 season we have supported the establishment of local agro-dealers, so farmers are able to purchase their inputs on a cash-on-delivery basis. The idea is that farmers become familiar with the concept of saving resources to be able to purchase inputs in upcoming seasons. This means they become less dependent on steady donor support. The establishment of agro-dealers also develops the local agricultural sector in a sustainable manner, rather than the Trident Foundation taking up the role of agro-dealer.”

Despite forecasts that most of the country is likely to receive normal to below normal rainfall during this rainy season, the foundation is optimistic that the farmers will record good yields in the 2018/2019 farming season.

Mr Ngandu said the long-term economic growth potential in North-Western Province should not be narrowly considered as being mining-only, but that residents with a long-term view are encouraged to look at secondary economic activities triggered by the population growth generated by mining activities in the province.

The mining firm’s support and training in conservation farming helped avert attacks from the armyworms that destroyed over 90,000 hectares of Zambia’s maize crop elsewhere in the country during the 2016/2017 farming season, while offering a path from subsistence to self-sufficiency. The black-striped caterpillars usually appear between December and May as dense armies of over 1,100 pests per square metre march through fields, destroying entire crops.

FQM, through its conservation farming project, has trained over 30,000 farmers to farm differently to what they are used to. The project’s best farmers are getting over 800 percent higher crop yields than they would if they continued farming in the traditional way.

The mining firm focuses these activities on communities that have either been directly impacted by activities such as resettlement, or immediate neighbouring communities of mine sites. The programme has been extended further to communities on the periphery of the West Lunga Management Areas, with the specific objectives of discouraging encroachment into this conservation area and working with communities to find sustainable alternatives to poaching.

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