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Monday, 25 April 2011

MMD Manifesto: Agriculture Development

We continue to pace ourselves through the various proposals. We have already reviewed the PF proposals on Agriculture. Its now time to check what MMD is pledging to the Zambian people for this important sector.  

What are the main specific policy proposals?

The MMD policy proposals can be grouped under three areas:

Crop based agriculture: There are few specific proposals with the exception of the pledges to continue the current Input Support Programme; increase (undefined) credit support to small scale farmers; and, continue developing at least one farm block in each province.

Fisheries: The MMD aspires to “make fisheries a major income earner for our people”, though a range of unspecified policies. There are general commitments to encourage community-based resource management and fishing supporting infrastructure (e.g. landing sites, markets and laboratories). It is also committing to “intensify awareness campaign for safe fishing methods that will encourage sustainable fishing practices.

Livestock: In contrast to crop based agriculture and fisheries proposals, the livestock proposals are quite specific. MMD has specifically pledged to establish livestock breeding and extension service centres in all provinces; construct livestock marketing centres in every district and abattoirs in every province; construct cordon lines in provinces prone to livestock diseases and improve surveillance to control diseases; develop policies and programmes that will encourage prudent use of grazing areas; encourage integrated farming practices; and continue creation of disease free zones.

What is the rationale?

The MMD have not made any attempts to define the current problems facing the sector.

What is our main assessment?

The lack of problem definition greatly hampers the MMD proposals. Simply put MMD does not appear to have a clue on what is wrong with the sector. Although the proposals related to fishing appear quite interesting, it is unclear what MMD is aiming to achieve and whether it will provide value for money for the Zambian people. But more importantly all the MMD proposals prove most feeble when when matched to the key problems we have documented on this website. These include the following:

Government failures – agriculture currently suffers from misguided government interventions which have either led to rampant inefficiencies and corruption.

Policy uncertainty – there’s significant policy uncertainty especially with respect to buying, importing and exporting key crops which has made it difficult for the private sector to undertake investment decisions.

Lack of access to finance – farmers challenge in borrowing to finance productive activities. The MMD have proposed to partly deal with through increase support to small scale farmers but the nature of credit support (and whether its value for money) is undefined.

Limited knowledge: There’s insufficient knowledge available to farmers, especially those in remote areas e.g. in relation to soil protection and other techniques. It is unclear how MMD plans to deal with these issues.

Market discovery challenges: The key constraint facing rural dwellers appears to be knowledge about market opportunities. There are many good opportunities for income creation in rural areas, but locals are just not aware of the opportunities or they struggle with discovering the profitable markets. Although private organisations are doing their bit to unlock the potential that exists, the government can play a more proactive role at the local level working with communities to identify their local assets and solving the coordination and "market discovery" failures that exist. Unlocking these opportunities would make our local areas engines of agriculture growth. MMD has no proposals in this direction.

Reform of Food Reserve Agency: We have previously noted the need for substantial reform of the FRA, especially with respect to the need for developing a "rules-based" system and how it deals with small scale farmers.

Public goods: There’s need for greater provision of physical infrastructure, especially transport to improve access to markets. Empirical evidence continues to show that market access is a key determinant of smallholder income-diversification and growth, and, for peripheral regions, improvements in market access require investments in infrastructure. 

To conclude, MMD has failed to deal with these issues and appears to have missed a great opportunity to ensure that agriculture contributes to poverty reduction. The lack of vision is shocking to say the least. Zambia needs more than a policy that goes beyond the current obsession with the inefficient fertiliser input support programme for maize. 

Related Posts :

Zambian Economist is currently reviewing manifestos of leading political parties in Zambia. All posts in this ongoing review can be found at Manifesto Analysis.

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