Over 1,200 Zambian farmers converged on the bustling Chongwe district this week, not for a traditional market, but for a seed fair with a difference. Organized by the Southern Africa Accelerated Innovation Delivery Initiative (AID-I) Rapid Delivery Hub, the event, themed “Promoting Access to Drought Tolerant Seed and Appropriate Scale Technologies,” aimed to bridge the gap between farmers and innovative seed solutions, empowering them to navigate the challenges of a changing climate.

“Access to quality seeds is the cornerstone of agricultural productivity,” emphasized Kasuba, the district agriculture officer. “This seed fair plays a crucial role in linking farmers to seed companies and exposing them to appropriate technologies. It ensures they can acquire the right inputs at their doorsteps, promoting food security and resilience.”

The fair buzzed with activity as farmers explored stalls showcasing an array of drought-tolerant and disease-resistant maize, legume, and vegetable seeds. Companies like Zamseed and SeedCo presented their latest offerings, while organizations like CIMMYT and MasAgro Africa provided valuable insights on best agricultural practices.

“We’re seeing a strong demand for smaller seed packets, particularly for medium-maturity maize varieties,” noted a representative from SeedCo. “This fair has been an invaluable platform to gather feedback and understand the specific needs of smallholder farmers, allowing us to adapt our offerings accordingly.”

Beyond seeds, the fair offered a holistic approach to agricultural development. Farmers participated in demonstrations showcasing efficient irrigation techniques and climate-smart practices like conservation agriculture. Educational sessions equipped them with knowledge on soil health management and pest control, empowering them to make informed decisions for their farms.

“I came from Nyimba after hearing about this event,” shared a farmer named Mwale. “I learned so much, not just about new seed varieties but also about water conservation and using natural fertilizers. This knowledge will be invaluable for improving my yields and protecting my crops from the unpredictable weather.”

The success of the seed fair highlights the importance of collaborative efforts in addressing the challenges faced by Zambian farmers. By bringing together stakeholders from across the agricultural value chain, initiatives like AID-I are fostering an ecosystem of innovation that empowers farmers to thrive in a changing environment.

“This seed fair is just one step in a larger journey towards building a more resilient and food-secure Zambia,” concluded Dr. Moses Siame, Country Representative for CIMMYT Zambia. “By equipping farmers with the right tools and knowledge, we can unlock their potential and ensure a brighter future for agriculture in the country.”

As the sun set on the bustling fairground, one thing was clear: the seeds sown in Chongwe were not just of drought-resistant crops, but also of hope and empowerment for a generation of Zambian farmers ready to face the future with newfound confidence.