Are Beans Farmers Getting Raw Deal ?

BEANS is a nutritious legume that is enjoyed by many Zambians as an indigenous vegetable. Furthermore, it is one of the legumes preferred for inter-cropping with other crops as more farmers adopt agro-ecological practices such as conservation farming.

In the Northern Province of Zambia, beans have been a part of the indigenous foods that is grown and eaten.

With the increase in trade, beans’ farmers are now striving to enhance their farming from a simple subsistence farming practice to a viable business.

Boniface Musonda Chishimba is a small holder farmer of Chiombo camp in Kasama.

He has been growing beans for the past 14 years. From his 2.5 Lima, he produces 2 x 50kilogramme bags on average and the sales have enabled him to meet basic routine expenses such as school fees and even in one instance, was able to buy a heifer.

Furthermore, since beans is a Zambian delicacy enjoyed nationwide, there is a guaranteed market.

Currently, a significant amount of beans that is found in popular market centres in Lusaka and on the Copperbelt is bought from farmers such as Boniface Chishimba.

But the market linkages are somewhat weak and hence farmers do not really get the full value for their money.

As Chishimba explains, traders come from as far as Kitwe and Lusaka respectively and buy their beans for between K10 – K15 per gallon.

These traders re-sell the beans for between K30 – K45 per Meda, citing transportation costs as the reason for the price discrepancies.

The disaantage to the farmer, however, is the price factor which is as a result of weak market linkages.

“The traders who buy from us come from as far as Kitwe and Lusaka and they control the price of beans,” Chishimba laments.

If all things were equal, Chishimbawould prefer the starting selling price of his beans to be pegged at K20 and above, based on the input that goes into growing beans.

What has perpetrated the weak linkages includes the fact that most farmers sell their beans as individuals, therefore making themselves vulnerable to exploitation by traders.

If they were organized into groups, they would have more leverage in determining the price and enhance their bargaining power.

Secondly, most of these farmers lack necessary entrepreneurship skills that would enable them to better position themselves as on the market. This translates into a significant disaantage with regard to price determination.

Therefore, there is need to help farmers establish and maintain more efficient value chains so as to enable fair trade between small holder farmers and traders.

It is for this reason that the Smallholder Agribusiness Promotion Programme (SAPP), has identified smallholder beans’ farmers in Kasama district as part of their target group for entrepreneurship trainings.

Through these trainings, SAPP intends to educate farmers on how to promote their agricultural produce, managing business relationships and enhancing their negotiation skills among other things.

Furthermore, the need for farmers to organise themselves into groups and how to govern these groups for sustenance will also be highlighted in these trainings.

Christabel Chipuka is a smallholder farmer based in Chiombo area of Kasama. She, too, has a 2.5 Lima of beans which she says she would expand if she knew how to get more value from the sale of her beans.

She explains that she relies on beans to earn money to pay school fees, buy maize seed and another necessities that are needed to enhance here enterprise.

“We do get occasional hand-outs from the district agricultural office but we need some more information on how to grow our beans and even help with fresh seed as the seed we have been using has been recycled over a long period of time,” Chipuka laments.

She adds that most of all, she would appreciate training in agricultural marketing and value addition as that will equip her with appropriate skills to enable her raise more funds as she would apply the acquired knowledge and skill to further penetrate the market noting that one of the crucial challenges that farmers are faced with is marketing and value addition, which would add value a great deal as they market their products.

With the necessary entrepreneurial skills, farmers engaged in beans production can better position themselveswith regard to trading and price determination. Furthermore,farmers may even be encouraged to expand their current cultivation area of beans.

Considering the fact that beans are a Zambian delicacy all around the country, a guaranteed market awaits the farmers in Chiombo camp in Kasama.

With this in mind, it is crystal clear that these smallholder farmers are now the target for entrepreneurship trainings that will be conducted by SAPP.

In this vein, it is hoped that through such empowerment, smallholder farmers will be better connected to potential markets and will be able to respond better to market demand and value addition opportunities.

Source : The Times of Zambia

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