By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
OVER US$80 million has been disbursed to implement an irrigation project in Zambia by the World Bank targeting 14, 000 smallholder farmers in three provinces.
The project, with a total value of US$201.02 million, is being implemented in Central, Southern and Copperbelt provinces.
The project commenced on November 31, 2011 and is expected to be completed by next year.
According to the World Bank project portfolio for Zambia, the project was aimed at reaching 14,000 smallholder farmers through a trained workshop on irrigation.
The project would provide access to irrigated land for 1800 farm families in selected sites.
The bank said, this would improve agricultural service provisions to smallholder farmers.
Agriculture contributes about 10 percent to Zambia’s Gross Domestic Product and 12 percent of national export earnings.
“From this expanded irrigation coverage, the project results will be measured through increased yields of irrigated crops, the diversity of crop production and the adoption of improved technologies.
“Key results include increased accessibility in rural areas through the rehabilitation of 115 out of the planned 200 kilometres of access roads,” the bank said.
The bank said irrigated agricultural support services were building the capacity of smallholder farmers to operate medium to large size smallholder irrigation schemes on a sustainable commercial basis.
This was achieved through partnership agreements between Government, communities and schemes, the bank said.
“Agriculture is the livelihood of nearly 90 percent of the rural population. Therefore, improving agricultural productivity, investing in agribusinesses and developing markets is essential to poverty reduction in Zambia.
“The sector is dominated by rain-fed maize production that is labour intensive, with small scale producers working on only two hectares of less. The current Government is starting to actively pursue agricultural diversification,” the bank said.
The bank however said the irrigation project was currently being restructured, due to delays in implementation and changing insight on implementation modalities.