Zambia Eastern Province permanent secretary Chanda Kasolo says agriculture, one of the areas Government has identified in its quest to diversify the economy, has enormous potential to be the country’s engine for economic development. In an interview in Lusaka, Mr Kasolo said the agriculture sector can create decent jobs and accelerate national economic development if well harnessed.
“The agricultural sector is one sector that can contribute significantly to economic growth of the country and reduce poverty, especially in rural areas. This is the reason why the Government is also promoting the growing of cotton on a larger scale to create wealth and employment for our people, the cotton industry is very important to Zambia, as it creates employment for a lot of people, especially those in rural areas,” he said.
Copper-dependent Zambia has been hit hard by low prices of the mineral on the international market caused mainly by weaker Chinese demand. It is a deep contrast to the past decade, when the mining sector boomed and mining companies posted bumper profits.
The steady climb in copper prices since the mid-2000s helped in the dramatic expansion of Zambia’s mining sector from seven percent of its gross domestic product in 2008 to 12 percent in 2015, according to figures by the Ministry of Finance. Now, the government has identified agriculture as one of the key productive sectors that can contribute significantly to the transformation and sustainability of a strong economy.
Mr Kasolo said he is happy that Government is taking steps to diversify the economy to help reduce the country’s dependence on mining, Zambia’s economic mainstay. He also encouraged farmers to not only concentrate on growing maize but ensure they grow a variety of drought-resistant crops in view of the unpredictable rainfall pattern.
He added Government would continue to encourage diversification of the economy to expand the export base towards manufacturing, tourism, agriculture and value-addition, particularly in the mining sector.