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November 10, 2009

Irrigation helps Zambian farmers boost food production

by Sanday Kabange Chogo

There’s strength in numbers, at least for 150 of Chanyanya’s farmers. They’ve formed a cooperative that has leased part of its land to Infraco, a company specializing in agricultural infrastructure. That includes trenches and electric pumps to draw water from the nearby Kafue River for irrigation. InfraCo also provides seeds, fertilizers and basic management to the farmers, who own about a quarter of the 60 irrigated hectares. They grow maize, wheat, vegetables, and soybean for their families and sell what’s left on the domestic market.

InfraCo uses the rest of the irrigated land for commercial farming for export. Profits are invested back into the project. “We expect benefits in terms of the community [like] healthcare and education. Of the profits that we get, 20% we shall plough back to expand our project, then the other 20% we shall plough back into the community -- building a high school, healthcare, whatever. Then 60% will go in our pockets ," says Maurice Hikapulwe area councilor for Chikupi ward in Chanyanya. Members of the Chinyanya CooperativeAccording to Hikapulwe the initiative has helped rural communities around Chanyanya village become self-reliant.

The project, which started in October 2008, is in its pilot phase. InfraCo hopes to replicate the project soon in other parts of Africa. Since the launch of the project in October 2008, residents of Chanyanya and other surrounding villages, such as Chainsi and Chikupi, have supported the project according to Chrispine Mvula manager of the Chanyanya Smallholders Society.

“People are very happy because they have seen what they have not seen before. But with Members of the cooperative with irrigation equipment that maize which we have, they have enough to take them throughout this year. So the issues of the relief foods from the government, I think that is history now, in this community,” explains Myula.

Once all the invested capital and machinery is repaid to InfaCo, the farmers will own the company. After 20 years of growing and selling crops on the land the farmers were not using, InfraCo will have paid for all the equipment and provided the working capital for both the commercial and co-operative sides of the project.

InfraCo is a donor-funded company specializing in infrastructure development in Africa and South Asia. It helps developers of private sector infrastructure by providing much of the initial costs of early development.

VOA

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