The long awaited implementation phase of CAMAP project has at last come to being. This is after a lot of planning efforts which started with the acquisition of the technology and establishment of a project partnership between AATF and Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI). The project which aims at mechanizing cassava production by use of machinery in land preparation, planting, harvesting and eventually processing started in earnest in August 2012 with the identification of 50 farmers in Luapula and Western provinces. The farmers were identified on the basis of their willingness to participate and contribute in the project activities. Gender was also a consideration to ensure both male and female farmers benefited from the project.
After farmer identification, the next step was land clearing since most of the farms were laden with tree stumps which made them unfavorable for mechanization. Each farmer was supposed to clear one hectare of land. As land clearing continued, AATF commenced the process of acquiring the requisite machinery for demonstration purposes in readiness for planting which normally starts in November.
Land preparation commenced in October though the delay in onset of the rains could not allow planting to start in November as earlier anticipated. Land was cultivated by use of tractor drawn ploughs which was a departure from the traditional way where farmers used ox-plough and hand hoes.
Planting was scheduled to start in the first week of December and since the planting machinery was not delivered on time, planting was done manually but following the machine specifications of, cuttings quality, size of the cuttings, spacing, planting angle and fertilizer application so as to ensure mechanized harvesting when the crop matured. In order to ensure that all farmers used the same planting standards, demonstrations were conducted in all farmer clusters.
In all demonstration sites, farmers were taken through a simple farm record keeping template. This was meant to enable them monitor their production progress and also aid comparison between manual and mechanized production.
It is hoped that planting will be completed by 20th December 2012 in all areas. Plans to identify 200 farmers who will participate in the 2013 planting season are underway. This will see the project reach more farmers and hence have a bigger impact. Other activities for 2013 will include identification and enhancing capacities of service providers in the cassava industry including processors, equipment fabricators and marketers.
– Joseph Ndwiga, AATF