Zambian smallholder farmers face financial challenges, including prohibitive interest rates, that constrain growth and restrict access to the funding needed to increase production.
Muma Bwalya works as a Development Specialist for the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC), an organisation that facilitates low interest loans and trains farmers on improving productivity and accessing new markets.
Muma, an Australia Awards alumna, evaluates value chains to increase farmers’ incomes. In doing so, she examines the economic value of every step in the agricultural process, from farm to market, to create economic opportunities for farmers, transporters, factories and retailers.
While in Australia on the Agribusiness short course delivered by the University of Queensland, Muma learned that value chains are not inherently flawless. While they can create new income opportunities, they can also create barriers to market access for smallholders if market power is concentrated at the wrong place. On her return home, Muma began using this crucial knowledge to protect the most vulnerable farmers who have the most to lose.
Once back in Zambia, Muma was assigned to three large CCEC projects—the Aquaculture Seed Fund for the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Cashew Matching Grant Facility for the Ministry of Agriculture, and Cassava Commercialisation under the Skills Development and Entrepreneurship Project. Funds were earmarked to all three projects to support farmers by linking them to markets and providing business development training so they can better package and market their produce.
A highlight of Muma’s work is the Aquaculture Seed Fund Project she designed. It is on track to benefit at least 2,950 farmers, from 35 districts, and create 11,750 sustainable direct jobs along the value chain.
Muma also successfully implemented the Value Chain Development Programme in Zambia, with more than 50 value chain products implemented in 72 districts. Such initiatives are expected to improve the income of farmers and see the agricultural sector help reduce poverty and enhance food security. If used correctly, the value-chain framework will help realize the sector’s full potential.
Muma has also linked smallholder farmers with a large Zambian supermarket chain which is now a direct market. She has sensitised farmers to the dangers of pesticides and herbicides toxins while harvesting and processing their produce.
Leveraging the relationships she struck with the University of Queensland delivery team continues to be beneficial, says Muma. A fellow Ghanaian alumnus visited Zambia in 2018, for example, to explore opportunities with Muma around fresh vegetable and dry food markets. Muma says her experience with Australia Awards was life changing.
Photo Credit: Muma Bwalya