The government in Zambia has urged co-operatives in the country to continue their development and not rely too heavily on the agriculture sector.
Speaking on the International Day of Cooperatives on 2 July, minister for commerce, trade and industry Margaret Mwanakatwe said the government was empowering co-ops through the Zambia Cooperative Federation (ZCF).
But she encouraged co-ops to look beyond the agriculture sector for development.
“Diversification is key in our development agenda,” said Ms Mwanakatwe, “and that is why the government has decided to transfer the co-operative mandate to the ministry of commerce because we want co-operatives not to rely on agriculture alone, but venture into other sectors.”
The Presidential Milling Initiative has seen control of solar powered grinding mills passed to co-operatives. In a bid to address the price of grain and flour, the government bought 2000 milling plants from China in a $200m project. 800 of those plants were passed to the control of youth co-ops, to help empower young people and give them a vocation.
As a result of the project, the price of mealie meal flour has gone down. Next up, the government wants to implement a national co-operative development strategy to promote co-ops across all parts of the economy.
The development of agricultural co-ops has been seen as successful. Reverend Howard Sikwela, permanent secretary of the Copperbelt region, said farmers had benefited from the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP). Mr Sikwela said that Copperbelt – a mineral-rich area in the south of Zambia – had been allocated 124,924 farming inputs, an increase of 18% from the last farming season. Farming inputs are resources needed for production, such as chemicals, feed, seed or energy.
He also urged co-ops to innovate to continue their development. For example, farmers could move away from exporting raw tomatoes and instead produce tomato sauce.