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U.S. farming body and Zambian firm partner aim to boost crop yields - Metro US

U.S. farming body and Zambian firm partner aim to boost crop yields

FILE PHOTO: A farmer walks through his field of maize close to the town of Chikuni in the south of Zambia

LUSAKA (Reuters) – An American non-profit organisation has launched a $40 million joint venture with one of Zambia’s top farm suppliers to boost crop yields and food security as farmers struggle to access finance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the local company said on Sunday.

The chairman of African Green Resources (AGR), Zuneid Yousuf, said the private sector deal with U.S-based African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) included a scheme supporting 250,000 mainly subsistence farmers to double their maize yields and help feed around 10 million people in Zambia and the southern African region.

“AFAP’s role is not only sourcing fertiliser guarantees and credit lines, but to also act as an adviser for downstream activities like value addition,” Yousuf told Reuters in his Lusaka offices.

   Credit packages for seed, fertiliser and training will be provided to the farmers, while plans are also being made to use soya beans and maize to produce animal stock feed, among other products, Yousuf said.

   In the 2018/2019 crop season, Zambia’s national average yield rate for maize was 2.52 tonnes per hectare, far below Egypt at 8 tonnes and South Africa at 4 tonnes.

   Zambia’s 2019/2020 season maize production is projected to increase to over 3.3 million tonnes from around 2 million tonnes in the previous season but is still below potential, Yousuf said. [nL8N2D948V]

   The southern African nation is rebuilding an agriculture sector hit hard by a recent drought, with small-scale subsistence farmers who produce over 90% of Zambia’s maize, losing access to markets and seeing a dip in productivity as they battle the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Zambia has reported 1,416 confirmed coronavirus cases and 11 deaths.

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Wendell Roelf and Timothy Heritage)

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