FARMERS in North-Western Province are positioning themselves as the major contributors to the national food strategic reserves in response to the economic boom following the opening of two giant copper mines in the province.
Speaking during the recent Agriculture and Commercial Show in Lusaka, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MACO) Mwinilunga District Crop Husbandry Officer, Anos Luvuwa said the farmers in the province had adopted new farming methods and also embraced new crops away from the staple cassava, millet and sorghum.
Mr Luvuwa said North-Western Province was working at not only being considered as the new Copperbelt but to also taking up the top slot in the national bread basket.
He said the farmers were now growing maize and more exotic vegetables on a commercial scale because the mining activities had created a ready market.
In the past, he said, the farmers concentrated on breeding local cattle which had low reproduction rates and low quality but due to increased demand for beef, they had ventured into commercial cattle ranching.
"The farmers in North-Western Province are very lucky as they have good rainfall patterns coupled with rich soils. They are repositioning themselves to ensure that they grow a lot of crops which will meet the new demand. The idea is to ensure that they benefit from the economic boom and not let people from other provinces take their market," he said.
Fish farming had also increased over the years with the ministry engaging the local farmers on good farming methods as a way of ensuring that the fish stocks are preserved.
Mr Luvuwa said to beat the highly acidic soils, the farmers had adopted conservation farming which was paying off well adding that the province has now become food secure.
"We have high rains in the province, with the rainy season starting as early as August. This means that the water reserves are full throughout the year so the farmers are being encouraged to engage in winter farming as well as rain fed farming.
This ultimately means that our clients can still enjoy the crops which were once upon a time only consumed in the rainy season," he said.
Mr Luvuwa said the farmers had also adopted integrated farming methods. They were also using chicken droppings to feed the fish in their fish ponds and make manure for their vegetable gardens.
"The farmers have adopted integrated farming which has proved to be very cheap. They have been trained in poultry management, vegetable growing as well as fish farming.
So what they are doing under integrated farming is that they are using the chicken droppings to feed the fish and also make manure for their vegetable gardens.
They then take the vegetables and feed the chickens and fish so it is a continuous cycle which has proved cheap and also profitable," he said.
In order to boost agriculture activities in the province, the ministry had adopted the participatory extension approach where the community was involved from the very beginning.
Mr Luvuwa said this system ensured that the province overcame the issue of limited funding from the headquarters and that the available resources would be used in an efficient and effective way since the priorities were set by the communities in collaboration with their camp or block officers.