Prior to 1991, agricultural policy was characterized by government controls through parastatals, cooperatives and other government-supported institutions to deliver agricultural services and, to some extent, direct production of commodities. In 1992, the government embarked on agricultural policy reforms as part of the economic structural adjustment program (SAP). The main focus of the policy reforms was to liberalize the agricultural sector and to promote private sector development and participation in the production and distribution of agricultural goods and services. Agricultural policy endeavored to create an enabling environment for private sector participation through measures such as withdrawal of direct government involvement in production, marketing and distribution of inputs and produce, privatization of parastatal companies, elimination of price controls and direct subsidies in the sector.
The policy objectives for the sector were:
- To ensure nation and household food security through dependable annual production of adequate supplies of foodstuffs at competitive cost.
- To ensure that the existing agricultural base is maintained and improved upon.
- To generate income and employment through increased agriculture production and productivity.
- To contribute to sustainable industrial development by providing locally produced agro-based raw materials.
- To increase agricultural exports thereby enhancing the sector’s contribution to the national balance of payments.
- The strategies for attaining these policy objectives included among other things the strengthening and monitoring the liberalized markets, the facilitation of the private sector development, diversification of agricultural production particularly among small holder farmers. The review and realignment of institutions and legislative arrangements was a critical policy objective.
From 1995 to 2001, the main vehicle for the implementation of these policy objectives in agriculture was the Agriculture Sector Investment Program (ASIP) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF). ASIP adopted a holistic approach to provide improved and sustainable services to the sector through efficient use of resources. The major underlying assumption was that all government and donor resources would be pooled into a “basket funding” for the various ASIP activities. The strategies for achieving the objectives of ASIP focused on enhancing production through free market development, reduction of government role in commercial activities, and provision of efficient public services.
The interventions of ASIP were organized around the following sub-programs: Extension, Irrigation, Research, Agriculture Training, Animal Production and Health, Agriculture Finance, Marketing and Trade, Seeds, New Product Development, Farm Power and Mechanization, Policy and Planning, Standards, and the Rural Investment Fund. These sub-programs set the outline of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF) during the last five years. Consequently, the ministry was restructured to meet the objectives of the program. During this period the program scored a number of successes and recorded some failures. (These are outlined in the GRZ/MAFF ACP document of November 2001).
Government policy with the inauguration of President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa has shifted decisively in favour of agriculture. In this respect government aims to make Zambian agriculture competitive and diversified away from maize. The government also aims to make the private sector in particular through the out grower schemes to have a strong role in the development process of the Zambian agriculture. It is policy to have Zambian agriculture science and technology led. In his speech on the occasion of the opening of the first session of the 2002 Parliament, President Mwanawasa underscored his Government’s vision on agriculture. He emphasised the need for adoption of farming practices, which are both economically and environmentally sustainable.
Article By Muna Hantuba the Economics Association Of Zambia President.