Zambia’s economy has been heavily reliant on copper for decades. Due to this reliance, the country has struggled to diversify into other commercial activities even when faced with unstable copper prices. The agricultural sector has been neglected for a long time by the government’s urban bias and the annual dependence on maize even when conditions are not favorable.Infrastructure, extension services and agricultural research and development are underdeveloped, especially in remote rural areas.
Key challenges for the agricultural sector include:
- Unbalanced agriculture policies which favour maize production over the production of other crops.
- Underutilised of research and development, farm mechanisation, science and technology and ICT to increase yields and maximise the comparative advantage of different areas of the country and their access to production and market information.
- Poor storage, inadequate irrigation and other infrastructural challenges have resulted in post-harvest wastages and too heavy reliance on rain-fed agriculture.
- Low agriculture productivity.
Poor infrastructure leads companies to concentrate on easily accessible areas thus smallholders in the countryside are cut off from transaction flows. Shortages in the physical infrastructure get in the way of the exchange of goods and information about marketing opportunities, thus restricting sustainable agribusiness development for smallholders.
Zambia possesses abundant land, labour and water resources which can enable it to expand agricultural production. Over half of Zambia’s total land area is classified as having medium to high potential for agricultural production with Zambia’s rainfall being ideal to produce a broad range of crops, fish, and livestock. In The National Agricultural Policy (NAP), it is highlighted that Zambia has the best surface and underground water resources in Africa. Although Zambia possesses abundant land and water, it is estimated that only 14 % of its total agricultural land is currently being used. The country’s water bodies are largely unexploited. Numerous agricultural activities could be carried out in these unexploited lands including bee keeping and the growing of non-maize cash crops and medicinal trees such as Moringa.
There is need for investment in the agricultural sector for it to become the main sector for development in this country. Increased investment leads to increased output. As farmers’ incomes rise, savings which are necessary for investment increase. Increased agricultural production leads to increased demand for processing facilities. This translates into increased demand for the whole economy’s products which might lead to an increase in price and quantity sold thus increasing the revenue earned by the industries, leading to an increase in GDP and in the long run sustained economic development.