The General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) has said farmers in the country must be given the requisite attention and support to enable the country to be able to produce enough food to meet local demand and for export.
Its General Secretary, Mr Edward Kareweh, in an interview noted that the role of agriculture in the total contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could not be over-emphasised.
“Agriculture is the mainstay of the country, thus supporting livelihoods of many families, guaranteeing food security, reducing poverty in rural areas and promoting growth and national development.
“Consequently, farmers remain the main pillar in this regard, notwithstanding the myriad of challenges that confront them,” he stated.
He said although there had been attempts by governments and other stakeholders to address the many challenges confronting the agric sector, issues such as access to land and water development (road networks, irrigation, storage facilities), agricultural credit, effects of trade liberalisation, improved seeds, fertilisers, high levels of post-harvest losses, poor infrastructural policies and access to markets for agric produce remained persistent and widespread.
“Thousands of smallholders live in poverty are unable to meet basic needs. They need to improve their incomes and competitiveness if they are to achieve and sustain a decent standard of living and reinvest in their farms,” he said.
Mr Kareweh said ultimately, the purpose of improving incomes was to improve quality of life, and which also relied on farming communities gaining access to basic public services such as water, health and education.
Investing in smallholders
A World Bank study on “Empowering Farmers in Sub Saharan Africa: Best Practices” said the business benefits of investing in smallholder supply chains were clear.
They include long-term supply security, improved quality and yields, greater supply chain transparency and new market creation.
“Supporting smallholders can also build stronger government relationships, increase ability to meet stakeholder expectations, enhance reputation and align with initiatives such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“In some cases, investing in local supply chains reduces costs and minimises price volatility and currency risks,” it said.