By makeli Phiri
With emphasis in growing crops and rearing of livestock to feed the nation, the rural communities consume their own grown food, and processing of this food is mostly done by hand. To reduce this arduous task amongst the rural farming communities it is helpful that the government introduces or reinforces the use of processing machines and implements that would loosen the burden of back breaking farming activities at rural household level. The labor so saved can be spread or allocated to some other needy activities in producing or cultivating the land for food production. Zambia has experienced fluctuations in food production and security, this as we know has to do with unfavorable weather conditions, and we cannot control nature. Therefore, where we expect good and favorable climatic conditions we must take full advantage even if we are to risk what we put in the ground. Farming is a business and as such it has its own risks. In risking it is either you win or lose. Whichever, way we must engage ourselves in full agricultural production at the same time look at how this food or crop shall be secured starting from the rural household level up to the national level. The rural farmer is not dependent on a salary, his income comes from sales of agricultural crops such as maize, sorghum, groundnuts etc. in addition to livestock such as cattle, goats and local or village chickens to urban people. The introduction of simple farming implements and food processing machines will help to increase food production as well as contribute directly to rural employment in the agricultural sector. Processing would make the crop(s) so grown to even be more palatable and subsequently to improved living conditions of the rural communities through good nutrition and finally good health and less challenges from diseases. To achieve high food production from the lower levels of crop production among the rural farming communities the government must be pro – active in making these rural farming communities to improve their production by supplying of crop processing equipment’s through micro – processing of such products. This way it would make the rural farming communities indeed ensure food security and contribute to the national food basket. With the increased crop production good land preparation is a must this would mean increased or expanded fields to produce more of the required or needed crop to feed the nation. To achieve this high yield and to correspond to this more fertilizers would be needed or used to cater for the expanded fields. Hence the input supply and distribution of fertilizer commodity should be readily available to the farming communities. This will make the farmer especially the rural farmer to have a lot more surplus meaning more income and store more than enough or adequate food for his household. The processing machines suggested here are maize Sheller’s, hammer mills for grinding various grains in addition to solar milling plants recently introduced, oil expellers for sunflower, groundnuts and other crops such as cotton seed depending on and according to the production of such cash crops in the various rural areas of the country. Increased agricultural activities in the rural sector if not properly handled can have its own environmental challenges mostly on land degradation. Land utilization should be improved and this is where the extension services of the Department of Agriculture should come in. Teaching and training the rural farming communities in land use management is a must. This will make the land users in agricultural activities be accountable to the practice they employ in their agro activities especially land tillage. Appropriate implements for this exercise must be emphasized through training and so are the uses of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers. Fertilizers do contributes to deterioration of the soil if wrongly applied after many years. Land sustenance would be in the hands of the agricultural land users. Proper land usage in crop production as well as livestock management would alleviate the unnecessary shifting from one area to another in search of virgin land. The country’s population is growing this will make more and more people go back to the land they shall need this land to grow and produce more food for the so many mouths that would need food. The agricultural sector especially in the rural communities can contribute massively to job creation and can equally minimize rural urban drift. The various crop and food processing activities from locally grown crops in the various areas of the country would and will absorb the excess labor that is found in these areas of the country. Agricultural skills that may be introduced would further create agro industries to come up because the farming activities would need support from the financial and engineering angles and other related activities will also emerge. It will equally be important as the farmers increase yield of the farm products, the produce so grown must sell. Therefore, as training is conducted for them (the rural farming communities) the subject of marketing should deliberately be introduced. They must know the requirements and needs of the potential consumers. Therefore, these farmers to improve and produce quality product or service which people would easily buy, the aim and zeal to manage good farm produce is very important. After all they need this income. As farming becomes an established business, the other areas of training is how business operates with cash and must know that any business cannot do well or it can be impossible to run a farming business. Advice on cash management and how to reinvest into the growth of this agricultural enterprise. These ideas can make a very big difference between successful farming and failure in any agricultural production for those anticipating to grow their farming activities. This is how productive these rural farmers can be with proper implements and machinery to help them to work extra hard in crop/food production for the nation. Coupled with training and how to market the processed produce they will be more than empowered and this should be the direction to go if we are to have as many small scale farmers getting engaged in farming using improved farming implements and equipment for processing the agro-products. Finally the marketing part to be introduced must make sure that whatever is produced after processing at this level must be known to the public or the urban consumers through advertising. Therefore, for any of the products so produced by the small rural farmer if it is to go commercial it would be important to have a good distribution network and to make sure that whatever is produced is available at all times. So when we are talking of prioritizing agriculture the first thing must be to improve the small scale farmer then we shall be sure of at least the country forging ahead higher yields from the farming activities. The small scale farmer is not lazy, they are hardworking they only need simple incentives like capital to make them do the needy for the nation. Simple implements and processing machines would do them good, and this is what should be encouraged. The implements and machines mentioned are of the basic nature which can even be supplied on loan or sold to this level of farmers at an affordable or conducive price to them. This is how the government can encourage crop and food processing through rural farming activities and employment of the rural youths just at their door steps.