Delegation of the European Union to Zambia and COMESA

Speech of Ambassador Mariani at the launch of the AWARE Project, 29/05/2019

Lusaka, 29/05/2019 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 190531_3
Speeches of the Ambassador

Project Launch Accelerate Water and Agricultural Resource Efficiency (AWARE) Project 29 May 2019, Mazabuka Opening remarks by H.E. Alessandro Mariani Ambassador of the European Union to Zambia and COMESA

Director at Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation, Mr Oswell Katooka

Director at Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Peter Lungu

Colleagues Ambassadors of EU Member States

Government Officials

Officials from GIZ

Representatives of the Media,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,


I am very pleased and honoured to participate today in the official launch of the project Accelerate Water and Agricultural Resource Efficiency (AWARE), co-funded by the European Union and Germany.

First of all, I would like to warmly thank the Government of Zambia as well as the German Technical Cooperation – GIZ for organising the official launch of the AWARE project here in Mazabuka together with our partners in the field and, even more important, together with the main beneficiaries of this project, the smallholder farmers of the Lower Kafue Catchment. The design of this project has been a collective effort and it is thanks to your contributions that we are here today to officially start the implementation of this 14 million EURO (about 190 million kwacha) initiative (12 MEUR EU's contribution).

Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite the general perception of Zambia being blessed with abundant water resources, water scarcity and competition for water use in areas such as hydro-power generation, sanitation, industrial production, fisheries and agriculture has already become a reality in Zambia.

The Lower Kafue Sub-catchment - the focus of this project – clearly illustrates this challenge: Whereas crop and livestock production provide for food security and basic income of its rural population, the Lower Sub-catchment also hosts important ecosystems, such as the Kafue Flats and the Lukanga Swamps. Moreover, approx. 50% of the National hydropower production and 50% of the Lusaka municipal water supply are provided by the Kafue River. Water extraction for agriculture, mainly the sugar industry, still plays a relatively minor role but it is growing. Therefore, the recent alert by WWF that the Basin has already reached its maximum capacity for water allocation does not come as a surprise but is nonetheless very concerning.

Zambia's agricultural sector is progressively experiencing the adverse impacts of climate change - including an increase in the frequency and the severity of seasonal droughts, prolonged dry spells, raising temperatures in valleys, flash floods and changes in the growing season. This has a huge effect on the agricultural activities in the country.

The effects of climate change are clearly visible after this year's agricultural season, and in particular in the Southern part of Zambia that has been hit by a very severe drought. This will further increase competition for water, with smallholder farmers' livelihoods and Zambia’s food security being at threat.

The last rainy season started one month late and is more than 30% below average rainfall over the bulk of the Western and Southern parts of the country. Southern Zambia, considered an area producing surplus crop, was registered as an area of extreme drought.

As the Honourable Minister of Agriculture announced recently, staple crop production in Southern Province is expected to decrease significantly due to extended dry spells from January through to March. This will also put at risk food security among smallholder farmers. Moreover, drought-related livestock diseases and deaths have resulted in a ban of livestock movements for watering. This poses a serious challenge on smallholder livestock farmers now struggling to maintain the productivity of their herds already before the onset of the winter season.

Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are all aware that smallholder farmers are those who feed this nation. It is them who produce about 86% of the country's agricultural crops and who secure about 95% of the nation's annual maize harvest. I therefore wish to applaud the MoA and the Zambian Government for their efforts to mitigate negative implications of climate change on smallholder farmers under the 7th National Development Plan. This includes the recognition of irrigation development and water resources management as key areas, as well as the emphasis on the importance of efficient extension service delivery.

Extension services are of particular importance as without well trained and well informed extension officers most small-scale farmers have virtually no access to technical services and up-to-date information including irrigation, land tillage, crop harvesting and post-harvest storage and processing.

Beyond the traditional role of the MoA, extension services are increasingly provided by private sector operators such as agro dealers, irrigation technology providers, seed companies, livestock traders, fish hatcheries and animal health service providers just to name a few. With the support of modern ICT technologies, extension systems will soon reach more clients in a more timely way and at a lower cost, including in the more remote areas.

Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you are all aware, there are about 450.000 smallholder farmers in Zambia that struggle to commercialise their produces. Access to water, irrigation technologies and quality extension services are key for successful commercialisation. In particular, affordable and efficient irrigation facilities make smallholders less reliant on rain patterns, thus improving predictability and productivity.

The irrigation and water management programme we are launching today will address these constraints. It is an essential component of a broader EU initiative to promote the Sustainable Commercialisation of Zambia's Smallholder Farmers. (As mentioned by the German Ambassador) AWARE will foster linkages between agriculture and water management, so to reinforce the so-called "water-agriculture nexus", a concept promoted by the Zambian government, the German Government and the European Union.

AWARE will contribute to the increased productivity of smallholders in the Lower Kafue Sub-catchment. Building on earlier experience and success of GIZ worlwide, it will promote the sustainable use and responsible management of the scarce resource water.

It will support a range of activities to ensure the expansion of sustainable agricultural water management for irrigation purposes:

  • Community-owned water storage as well as irrigation infrastructure will be established, based on participatory planning with farmers and water users.
  • The private sector will be supported in offering innovative irrigation systems to smallholders such as rental and leasing, thereby making irrigation infrastructure accessible for a wider range of smallholder farmers.
  • Specific public and private extension services will enhance the knowledge on efficient use of water at farm level.
  • Local water user associations will be assisted to improve participatory water management. This includes the implementation of catchment protection measures such as reforestation, terracing, and the construction of water storage and irrigation infrastructure.
  • Improved water harvesting, water storage and irrigation methods alongside improved local water resources management will lead to increased productivity and resilience to climate change.

Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today's project launch is even more important as the impact of climate change is now intensely felt in Zambia and its neighbouring countries. Public and private sector need to redouble their efforts to build adaptive capacities of farming systems and ensure that resources are used efficiently and sustainably.

I therefore trust that all partners involved will endeavour to make the most out of this opportunity by maintaining a strong commitment and by focusing on achieving and the expected results.

Thank you for your attention, Zikomo kwambiri


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