Once a humble subsistence crop, cassava is increasingly considered one of Zambia’s most profitable cash crops as it demonstrates versatility as an industrial raw material with wider applications, such as use in the brewing industry.
Recently Zambia has witnessed a surge in cassava demand for both human consumption and industrial production, earning it the title of the “next big thing for the export market.” All eyes are on Luapula Province, where continuous agricultural development is transforming the lives of its indigenous population, making cassava farming a popular practice.
“There were so many people who did not understand how to farm cassava, and the lack of markets, and transportation costs prevented them from showing much interest in the crop. There were also challenges in finding cassava varieties suitable for our soils and we lacked support in identifying them,” shared Luapula Province Agricultural Coordinator Godwin Chate.
Mr. Chate further revealed that due to the farmers’ inability to grow maize during certain periods of the year, most succumbed to poverty as they had to wait for the next farming season to carry out agricultural activities.
To address these challenges and ensure year-round viable economic activity in the Province, Mr. Chate along with his team sought to promote agricultural diversity in a bid to improve the farmers’ livelihoods. Partnering with socially conscious companies seeking local empowerment led to a collaboration with Zambian Breweries, which assisted the community in venturing into farming climate-resistant cassava.
Zambian Breweries continues to enhance agricultural diversity in Luapula Province, providing market opportunities, training and support to local farmers. Its “seed to sip” approach involves directly sourcing cassava from small-scale farmers and thereby creating a sustainable value chain that contributes to the brewing of its renowned local beer brands Eagle Lager and Mosi Light.
Zambian Breweries Corporate Affairs Director Tawanda Hojane explained: “We believe in empowering local communities and creating sustainable partnerships. Our operations model not only ensures the quality of our products, but also contributes to the economic growth of the region where we are present.”
Since the inception of this collaboration, over 6,000 small-scale farmers have benefitted from Zambian Breweries’ support through an out-grower scheme where they receive equipment and training. During its annual Cassava Farmer Day in Luapula Province, the brewer reiterated its commitment to empowering small-scale farmers in the region.
For Mr. Chate this signifies the continued preservation of Luapula Province as a regional cassava hub. The next phase involves working closely with Zambian Breweries to support more farming cooperatives.
“Now we are looking to work with the company to support farming cooperatives so that they too can follow recommended practices, improve their yields and make a living,” he stated.
The relationship between Luapula Province and Zambian Breweries remains constant with efforts aimed at supporting farming endeavours, improving yields, and ensuring equitable benefits for all members of the community. This partnership stands as a demonstration of the power of socially conscious initiatives in fostering sustainable agricultural practices, promoting economic growth and transforming lives.