AfDB Special Gender Envoy lauds transformative change at Nega-Nega Irrigation Scheme in Zambia

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“It is exactly this kind of innovative irrigation system that will ensure Zambians are part of the green and inclusive growth of Africa,” Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the African Development Bank’s Special Envoy on Gender, stated on Wednesday, July 23 at the site of one the Bank’s agricultural projects in Zambia. The Gender Envoy took some time from attending the 3rd African Women Economic Empowerment Summit held from July 24-26 in Lusaka to interact with smallholder irrigation farmers at Nega-Nega Irrigation Scheme in Mazabuka District.

Fraser-Moleketi congratulated the Zambian Government for a clear development vision to exploit Zambia’s vast but underutilized water resources and induce real change for the rural poor, including women and youth. She indicated that the project fully reflected the Bank’s Ten Year Strategy (2013-2022) and Gender Strategy (2014-2018)’s pursuit of inclusive growth in Africa. She reiterated the Bank’s commitment to gender equality as an essential cornerstone to support Africa’s economic transformation.

The Special Envoy happily noted that the Small Scale Irrigation Project had adopted a sound and transformative business approach to raise farm productivity, household income and general livelihoods of the smallholder farmers and women in Nega-Nega. She lauded the Nega-Nega scheme model as an example of Government’s transformative and empowerment agenda that is linking smallholder producers through public-private sector partnership (PPP) to sustainable markets. Speaking to the farmers, she learnt of the transformational impact the project and was inspired by a female farmer on how this project empowered in other aspects; health, decision-making and educating her children.

The 595-hectare Nega-Nega Irrigation Scheme is part of the AfDB-Finland financing partnership to the Zambian Government involving the construction of four irrigation schemes in Mazabuka and Sinazongwe districts. It has developed a bulk water supply system and irrigation scheme to draw water from the Kafue River for 148 households, including 16 female-headed and the beneficiary population is 1,200. The scheme cost US $9.2 million. Farmers have incorporated Manyonyo Irrigation Company (MIC) as a private limited company and recruited a team of professional staff to manage the infrastructure and the sugar enterprise. Zambia Sugar Plc has provided a market quota of 595-ha and helped farmers to establish a 35-ha nursery. Through their company the farmers have acquired a financial loan of US $577,903 for crop establishment.

This business approach has forged mutually inclusive and productive partnership among large scale commercial firms and smallholder farmers to create a sustainable win-win situation. From a baseline annual income of US $500 per household, the Nega-Nega farmers are expected to earn about US $10,000 from 2015 onwards.