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GWEMBE, ZAMBIA – In its quest to complement Government’s efforts in implementing the National Local Content Strategy 2018 -2022, Zambian Breweries has stepped up its efforts to promote local sourcing of key raw materials to produce clear beer. 

According to the National Local Content Strategy, there has been a disconnect between economic growth and reduction in poverty levels, and this has mainly been attributed to the absence of business linkages between growth sectors and local firms, particularly, the inability to use local raw materials, domestic labour, as well as inadequate knowledge of quality and standards.

It is for this reason that Zambia’s largest brewer has partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture, UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI) to help boost the production of sorghum among small scale-farmers in Gwembe District of Southern Province. 

The partnership with the World Food Programme will help smallholder farmers access high-yielding sorghum seed, training on crop management and insurance to protect their crops from climate shocks, as well as provide agricultural extension services and markets.

“As Zambian Breweries, we have for the last decade been researching how we can promote value addition, which is premised on local sourcing. Because we know that sustainability can only come by sourcing key raw materials locally and reduce dependency on importation.” said Zambian Breweries Director Corporate Affairs Ezekiel Sekele.

Mr Sekele explained that the partnership, with WFP, also sought to promote the development of drought-resistant crops, such as sorghum and cassava, as well as promote food security and incomes, particularly among the vulnerable, but yet viable groups of society.

“So far, the project is progressing very well. We are beginning to witness the commercialization of some of the crops such as sorghum. As Zambian Breweries, we are offering a premium price to our small-scale farmers. This year alone, we expect to buy just under 5,000 metric tonnes of sorghum. And in total, we are supporting just under three thousand (3,000) small scale-farmers who are selling to Zambian Breweries through the aggregation system and several other procurement partners,” he said.

And WFP Programme Policy Officer – Team Leader – Smallholder Support Unit Stephen Omula, said that the program was tailored towards building capacity of the small-scale farmers and helping them to manage the harvest through postharvest management training, together with knowledge management.

“Part of the support WFP brought was supporting these vulnerable but viable smallholder farmers with equipment to get back to production. WFP distributed about 15,000 rippers to enable these smallholder farmers to be able to practice climate-smart agriculture through ripping, which is one of the components of conservation farming.

Mr Omula, further, added that feedback from the beneficiaries was that they need additional services such as access to the market.

“Therefore, through a partnership with off-takers and food processors, including Zambian Breweries, WFP is extending the partnership in Districts like Gwembe where farmers are growing sorghum, that is used by Zambian Breweries as part of their materials for processing,” he said.

Zambian Breweries’ Agriculture Manager Chris Nicolle said farmers in the district have had challenges in transporting their crops to a commercial marketing point.

“The partnership has provided us an opportunity to build structures within the district and we are looking at a programme of having marketplaces that are more localised for the farmers.

In Southern Province Zambian Breweries is focused on joint partnerships with WFP, Silverlands Smallholders and other organisations working to improve livelihoods for smallholders growing sorghum.

The company also provides a market for small-scale farmers in the cassava buying regions in Luapula and Northern provinces, where the company is focused on developing its out-grower programme with over six cooperatives, contracting off-take in a secure market for their cassava.