THE FINNISH Government will continue to prioritise its support to the agriculture sector in Zambia because of the sector’s potential to address rural poverty and inequality.
Finnish ambassador to Zambia Timo Olkkonen said Zambia’s agriculture sector had the potential to address rural poverty and inequality, as most of the poor people were in the rural areas and depended on the sector for their livelihoods.
Mr Olkkonen said that it is for this reason that Finland would continue its support to agriculture in Zambia, and that it would look into opportunities on how to get the private sector more involved.
He said Finland would remain active in policy dialogue with the Government in agriculture, to reform the sector.
Mr Olkkonen was speaking in an interview in Lusaka.
“As a former chairperson of agriculture cooperating partners group and Troika, Finland will remain active in political dialogue in the agriculture sector with the Government.
“Through the dialogue, we keep encouraging Government to be bold in reforming the agricultural sector particularly the subsidies-system, which has been proven to be inefficient, maize-centric, expensive and does not support the intended beneficiaries, the most poorest,” he said.
Mr Olkkonen said in the long run, Finland envisioned the Government to allocate resources from the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) and Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) to more technical assistance such as agriculture extension services for more efficient farming practices and agriculture diversification.
He said his government was also looking into cooperation possibilities between agriculture institutions, polytechnics and universities in Zambia and in Finland.
“Cooperation between Zambia Agriculture Research Institute and Natural Resources Institute Finland in establishing laboratory for disease free planting materials for agriculture and training of ZARI staff demonstrates what can be achieved from collaboration of two professional organizations in agriculture sector.
“We are currently planning Finland’s support to private sector development in Zambia for coming years and due to its potential and relevance, agriculture will be one of the sectors we will look into in the course of the planning,” Mr Olkkonen said.