By Alexander Nkosi
Most Zimbabwes who work in cities within and outside the country rent small houses while their families run farm estates. Those who live within the country spend their weekends at their farm estates supervising and planning their agriculture entreprises before they get back to the cities on Sunday evening. These entreprises are the main sources of food and income and have kept them going depsite a struggling economy hit by years of sanctions.
When you go to Nigeria, some of the best mansions in the country are deep in the villages. Nigerians value land so highly and they build their dream houses and set up small industries back home in their villages. In Switzerland, which is arguably the most beautiful country in Europe, some of the best places to live in are villages.
To my fellow youths, Zambia cannot employ 6 million youths in government, let us stop thinking about this. Government cannot manage to give handouts to sustain youths, let us stop thinking about this. The most important endowment we have is land. The real resources are not in Lusaka but out there in the bush: the emeralds, gemstones, gold, water, fertile land is out there in the villages. This is why giant mining firms and tourism investors are out there in the bush. When the Chinese come to Zambia, they would rather be out there in the bush than in New Kasama, State Lodge, Ibex and Kabulonga.
What is government doing to create opportunities for youths? I will pick the agriculture sector as an example and explain it in detail. In 2022 budget, the Minister of Finance announced setting up agriculture estates as a key priority for rural industrialisation and economic diversification. The President started actioning this initiative when he met Africa Development Bank (AfDB) President during the Africa- EU summit early this year. Note that AfDB has been funding food production and processing in farm blocks in Zambia starting with Luswishi farm block where a lot of work has already been done. After meeting President Hichilema, AfDB President promised to expand financing and support more similar projects across the country.
The Luswishi Farm Block Development is an initiative of the Government of Zambia to commercialize agricultural land towards economic diversification and growth, enhance food security and open up undeveloped rural areas while reducing poverty and rural-urban migration. The Government produced the Farm Blocks Development Plan, which has 11 Farm Blocks earmarked for development with total gross area of 895,000 (ha). A Farm Block is a large agricultural area where backbone infrastructure such as feeder roads, electricity, water for irrigation and domestic uses, and communication facilities are provided by Government to stimulate sustainable partnerships with private sector investors in conducting agricultural, agribusiness and economic activities. The Farm Block concept comprises a core venture (private sector), large (private sector), medium, and small-scale farms operating under an outgrower arrangement.
What is government doing to coordinate sectoral initiatives aimed at ensuring farm estates are a huge success?
1) The ministry of water development working with ZNS has mapped out establishment of irrigation canals and mini dams drawing water for existing water bodies.
2) The ministry of defence using ZNS will help do roads, dig canals and dams to reduce costs as ZNS already has equipment and labour.
3) The ministry of health will allocate some of the planned health facilities to these farm blocks to ensure access to health care. Zambia has been setting up health facilities across the country.
3) The ministry of education will allocate some of the planned schools to these farm estates to ensure access to education. Government has been building schools across the country and this will continue as highlighted by the minister of finance.
4) The ministry of commerce has already started working on securing market in Congo DR through high level engagements between the two countries.
5) The ministry of small and medium entreprises has set aside economic empowerment funds in 2022 budget. K350 million has been allocated for economic empowerment in 2022.
6) Government has already established a private sector forum where it is identifying opportunities and discussing what support the private sector needs so as to improve production in all sectors: agribusiness is a key component of these discussions.
7) The ministry of local government has increased CDF so as to increase economic activities in constituencies required for all entreprises to thrive. Money is being sent back to villages to help boost economic activities.
8) The ministry of science and technology has secured over €6 million for youth skills development.
9) The ministry of transport will ensure improved communication in these farm blocks through establishment of more communication towers where needed.
10) The ministry of Home affairs will establish police posts to enhance security.
11) The ministry of energy through ZESCO will take power to these farm blocks.
As economic activities increase, other business ventures will be attracted to these farm blocks. If you are a an energetic, innovative and determined youth, why would you miss such an opportunity? Almost all ministries are coordinating to create income generation opportunities for you. There is policy consistency and coordination to ensure this succeeds. With this farm estates initiative: you will not only produce milk but also dairy products; you will not only produce livestock but also various meat products; you will not only produce industrial hemp but furniture, clothes, and clean raw materials needed for power generation in place of coal; you will not only produce maize and wheat but also cereal products to fill shopping malls; you will not only produce tomatoes but also various tomatoes products to cut down on wastage and provide a reliable market. This will further create jobs in transportation of products, trading and so many other sectors. This is what will take you out of poverty and turn you into employers.
This is just one of the many initiatives being implemented to empower youths and all Zambians but the problem is that we got so used to fast things, handouts and short cuts. You complain that there is no money in the economy, this is why we want our debt to be restructured so that we can free up money from external debt service to help us dismantle domestic arrears and put back money into the economy. Our farmers and producers need a domestic market with good liquidity. We want debt restructuring so that that government can cut down on domestic and allow banks to lend to agribusiness firms that will support these agriculture entreprises. We want joint ventures with European firms so that we can increase capital, access to better technology and branding so that our products can penetrate the highly protected European markets. Isn’t government already working on this? It is but the problem is that as youths we have gotten so used to handouts.
In conclusion, Zambia’s economy is undergoing repair. There are great opportunities for sustained income generation being created. These opportunities are for all Zambians regardless of political affiliation. Fellow youths, go and get land, position yourselves for rural industrialisation and economic diversification.