Concentrate on forward-thinking farmers who are not shy of technology
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CTA. 2003. Concentrate on forward-thinking farmers who are not shy of technology. Rural Radio Resource Pack 03/01. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57436
Lack of food security is a recurring nightmare for many African countries ? their governments and their people...
Cue: Lack of food security is a recurring nightmare for many African countries ? their governments and their people. Most people would instinctively think that the answer lies in encouraging everyone ? including the poor, subsistence farmer - to produce more food. But Stephen Muliokela, director of the Golden Valley Agricultural Research Trust in Zambia, says that?s certainly not the answer ? in fact it?s part of the problem. Sarah Reynolds asked him to explain. IN: ?Agricultural production is basically a business ?? OUT: ??we simply need to unlock its energies.? DUR?N 5?45? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: That was Stephen Muliokela of the Golden Valley Agricultural Research Trust and he was talking with Sarah Reynolds Transcript Muliokela Agricultural production is basically a business. To be able to produce you have to go into agricultural business and obviously once you make enough money you can buy whatever food you want. Reynolds Now do you then believe that, once an economy has grown sufficiently for agricultural production to be economically very good and successful, that those people who are currently really poor and suffering, with lack of food security, will benefit? Muliokela They will be food secure yes because some of them will become employees. Reynolds So you see their role as becoming labourers? Muliokela In some instances yes. They will be better employed that way. They will be more productively employed. Reynolds Is this a trend that you see in Zambia at the moment? Muliokela It?s a trend I see in every country which wants to make agriculture a centrepiece of economic development, Zambia included. Reynolds Is that outside Sub-Saharan Africa as well? Muliokela UK America, basically everybody there was a subsistence farmer. And now in the US there are about 3 million farmers that have 270 million people. But if you look at the jobs one in every three jobs is from agricultural related activity. That?s what we are going to do over there. Reynolds Now your research - you have a number of different client groups. Just explain what those are? Muliokela Our clients in Zambia - Zambia has six hundred and three thousand farmers. We reach all of them through the information we produce. We reach them through extension, we reach them through the radio, we reach them through publications and so forth. But we want to concentrate basically on the two hundred thousand, the most viable ones, and who think that they would benefit by having additional technology to make them a little bit more proficient in their production. Reynolds But I see that among your list of research activities conservation tillage is one of the key areas that you?re doing. Now to my mind and I?m sure many other listeners, conservation tillage smacks of subsistence farming, very low input, not really the commercial farmer that you say has potential for increasing agricultural production? Muliokela One of the inputs of one of the characters of conservation farming is that you want to make the land more sustainable. So it doesn?t matter whether you are a commercial farmer or a small farmer you must adopt practices which would allow you to ensure that your land remains sustainable every year. And then secondly we believe in this country and many developing countries the issue of input costs is a very big issue. So conservation tillage among other activities seeks to promote cost effective technologies without compromising yields. Reynolds Is there a role for bio-technology in low cost efficient agricultural production that?s applicable here in Zambia? Muliokela In fact that?s where it comes in. The challenges of agricultural production in developing countries including Zambia is that we are inefficient producers. Inefficient from different ways. Some of the varieties are low yielding. Some of them are outdated. Some of them don?t respond to technology. So biotech, when they package up all these good varieties or packages in such a way that they make farming efficient, has a very big role. There is no substitute for it, we need to have it. Reynolds So you?re thinking in terms of disease, virus free, planting material? what sort of biotech are you thinking of? Muliokela There are several technologies for example there?s a controversy now on genetically modified maize. If you look at what has been genetically modified in some cases they modify the crop to be tolerant to weedicides which makes weed application much more efficient and timely. Sometimes they genetically modify a particular crop to be tolerant or resistant to stock borer. And then of course you are talking about rapid multiplication systems for crops like cassava, for bananas, for Irish potatoes, for sweet potatoes. So the scope is vast. Reynolds But you wouldn?t turn your back on GM crops? Muliokela No. Reynolds Do you have any here? Muliokela I think Zambia has a stand but we don?t have any here. But as a scientist, I?ve no quarrel with genetically modified, you know, good crops. The key things are really the GMO debate must go back to the concept of biosafety which says if you have to give me a GM in a crop I must have a prior consent, that?s number one. You must tell me what is that GMO, what is the constitution. And then secondly I must have a competent authority to handle these. That?s the problem here, Zambia has no competent authority. And it?s not only Zambia but I think there are many countries within the region. And so the safest route is to say we don?t need it. But to me the best route would have been to say let us establish a competent authority to deal with biotech outputs and see how to best handle them. Reynolds Ten years time, if agriculture here in Zambia goes in the direction you would like to see it give me a breakdown of what those six hundred thousand farming families are going to be doing? Muliokela What is going to happen is that the two hundred thousand farmers who are more or less hobby farmers or destitute farmers will be disappeared. They will have a much more smaller farming population but very efficient, biotech inclined They will not shy away from new technologies, they will go out and espouse it. And I?ve yet to see a country with so much tremendous potential like Zambia. I?ve travelled 70 countries, I?ve yet to see one with a tremendous potential like Zambia. Zambia really is just heaven on earth, we simply need to unlock its energies. End of tape.