AGRICULTURE is one of the most important strategies in fighting hunger and poverty in rural areas, says Kabwe district commissioner Patrick Chishala.
And Chishala says farm mechanisation reduces labour costs.
Meanwhile, Kabwe District Cooperative Union board chairman Gabriel Ngosa says the cooperative movement is facing numerous challenges.
Speaking during the hand over of agricultural equipment by AFGRI to the Kabwe District Cooperative Union under the theme "Improving agricultural productivity through farm mechanisation", Chishala said the government was committed to halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.
"I wish to congratulate KDCU for their efforts and commitment in fighting hunger and poverty among smallholder farmers in Kabwe. As government, we cherish and value KDCU's work among small-holder farmers in Kabwe and your input in the implementation of government policy especially the contribution towards the Sixth National Development Plan SNDP whose aim is to sustain agricultural productivity and competitiveness in order to ensure food security and nutrition, income generation, creation of employment opportunities and reduction in rural poverty levels," he said. "The target of government is to halve extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. With more support from various stakeholders, I am confident that we will achieve this goal and improve the living standards of the people. I am glad that KDCU is already working with smallholder farmers aggregated as cooperatives. Agriculture remains one of the most important strategy in fighting hunger and poverty in rural areas."
And Chishala said farm mechanisation saves on labour costs and increases productivity.
"Mechanisation of farms means the use of machines for conducting agricultural operations, replacing the traditional methods which involve human and animal labour. Farm mechanisation is one of the packages of green revolution technology. Farm mechanisation implies the use of mechanical technology in the varied farming operations like ploughing, sowing, harvesting, thrashing, levelling, watering, spraying, weeding and so on. The use of tractors does not only help in increasing the volume of agricultural production but it encourages multiple cropping which is not possible under traditional farming," explained Chishala. "It also reduces dependence on animal power which is costly and also slow in operation. Farm mechanisation saves labour, makes the job for levelling and preparation of land easy and helps in bringing more land under cultivation. Furthermore, farm mechanisation increases efficiency of farmers and raises the output per worker.
"The timely availability of water supply from tube wells, the use of new package of modern inputs has also been made possible only with the help of mechanisation. The use of modern inputs increases yields of crops. Due to efficient use of resources, through the mechanised farming, the cost of production of various crops goes down and increases income for farmers by minimising pre and post harvest losses. Above all, mechanisation of agriculture helps in achieving self sufficiency and surplus in food and other crops." 
Meanwhile, KDCU board chairman Gabriel Ngosa said the cooperative was facing numerous challenges such as lack of financing.
"For a long time now, the cooperative movement has been faced with a lot of challenges such as lack of adequate training for the management of cooperative business, lack of financing of alternatives, lack of awareness on vices such as child labour, early marriages, growing of psychotropic substances and HIV and AIDS," he explained. "There is need for human and financial resources, government and other stakeholders so as to build capacity in the use of agrochemicals of traced pesticides, fungicides which are usually misapplied or mismanaged as a result of lack of product knowledge. We as a union are more than ready to partner with the government and other stakeholders to build the capacity of cooperators and small-scale farmers to modern practice farming methods, reduce on the cost of production, income generating activities and stable household food security in line with government policy on agriculture. We have embarked on some of these trainings with Musika, Chloride Zambia and BIMEDA. However, more needs to be done."
And Ngosa said the district cooperative union would set up a milling plant that would provide employment for the local people.
"Kabwe District Cooperative Union limited board and management are very grateful to the government policy on the revival of the cooperative movement which had gone to sleep for some time as evidenced by the recent passing of the cooperative policy. The cooperators have many business ideas, projects and programmes, which have not been implemented due to financial constraints. This is as a result of high interest rates and difficult conditions such as collateral for accessing funds for start up capital," he said. "It is our vision that cooperators should move from seasonal farming to diverse entrepreneurship like agricultural crop marketing, value addition through crop processing, transportation of agricultural produce which, can contribute to the growth of the economy and create employment. We are appealing to government and other stakeholders to consider us for more support to expand the fleet of tractors, trucks and construction of storage sheds to enable us reach out to many small farmers in order to enhance productivity and income generation. In this vein, Kabwe District Cooperative Union has intentions to set up a milling plant, which would not only provide employment but add value to our crops as well as come up with an economic price for mealie meal primarily for Zambian consumers. This will also provide an assured market of agricultural produce such as soya beans and maize."
Ngosa said he was optimistic that stakeholders in the agriculture sector would help the Kabwe District Cooperative Union achieve its intended goals.