Exclusive interview with Rob Munro, Senior Technical Advisor at Musika, a Zambian non-profit company that works to stimulate private sector investment in the smallholder market. Musika is also a key partner in AgriTech Expo, taking place from 5-6 April in Chisamba, Zambia.
1. Let’s start with your organisation, can you give us some background, history and goals of Musika?
Musika is an independent Zambian non-profit company affiliated to the Zambia National Farmers Union and supported by the Embassy of Sweden and the UK Government in Zambia to stimulate and support private sector investment in the smallholder and rural markets. It has been operating since 2011 and is managed by a young Zambian team with an extensive and accomplished record in agricultural market development.
Musika’s operations are national in scope and stretch across the agricultural industry, working with the corporate entities in the sector that are committed to engaging the rural poor as their clients, suppliers and consumers. Musika provides its clients with high quality, commercially focused technical advice and business support to catalyse and strengthen mutually beneficial commercial relationships between the corporate and smallholder markets.
Musika’s approach to reducing poverty and creating wealth in rural Zambia involves stimulating the development of a supportive market environment that provides the knowledge, confidence and long term opportunities for farmers to invest in their own businesses and to graduate out of poverty.
2. Any specific projects or success stories you would like to share?
Musika works with a large proportion of the agribusinesses in Zambia, from financial institutions to veterinary companies, grain traders to international agricultural equity investors. However, probably the ‘flagship’ work that Musika has undertaken that has had the most profound and systemic effect on the industry so far has been in the seed and agrochemical sectors where Musika’s technical and catalytic support has led to a major strategic focus by companies in those sectors on servicing the smallholder sector with an information and extension-based distribution model that extends deep into the villages and also into the more isolated markets that were previously seen as commercially unviable.
3. What in your view are the main challenges for the agricultural sector in Zambia?
At the lower end of the market, the major challenges are around the persistently low productivity rates that prevent meaningful returns to be made from agriculture. In the agricultural sector as a whole, there have been challenges around an unpredictable policy environment that have seen fluctuating levels of government intervention in the market making a difficult foundation for private sector investment.
4. What are the main reasons you would give someone to invest in Zambian agri-sector?
Zambia is a strong international agricultural investment destination, based on the very attractive combination of land availability, sanctity of title, political stability and a good agricultural climate. While the domestic food market is not large, it is growing at a rapid rate along with the growing purchasing power of the urban centres and Zambia sits in a region of general food deficit which provides excellent opportunities for export-based growth.
5. What is your vision for the sector, also in terms of the region?
Within five years, it would be great to see an agricultural economy based on an enabling and market-friendly policy environment that is conducive for long term private sector growth in all key sectors – commercial farming, smallholder agriculture and the support markets. Agricultural production would service not only the domestic market but Zambia would live up to its much-vaunted potential as the ‘grain basket of the region’.
Smallholder productivity would have improved as a result of both public and private investment, technical support and improved access to not only output and finance markets but also to productivity-enhancing technologies – including mechanisation and the knowledge of how to utilise it effectively.
Critically, Zambia’s agricultural sector will have evolved away from its maize dominance and vibrant markets would exist for higher value alternative crops, as well as for livestock which is a market that operates far below its economic potential.
6. Why did you decide to partner with AgriTech?
One of Musika’s explicit aims is improving access by smallholders to markets that support exposure to and adoption of modern agricultural technology – from land preparation machinery to livestock genetics and from electronic payment systems to boom sprayers. AgriTech presents an opportunity to focus all of these efforts around one major event.
Musika is very excited to be associated with Agritech Expo 2014 and strongly believes that this ‘first-of-its-kind’ event and those that follow it will be important milestones on Zambia’s road towards a modern, competitive and productive agricultural economy through exposing Zambia’s farmers – from the large corporates to emergent and smallholder farmers – to cutting edge technologies and best practices from around the world.
7. What can visitors expect?
Enthusiasm in this event from both local and international exhibitors has been incredible and as a result, visitors can expect to be exposed to a huge variety of technologies that can help transform their farming businesses. The number and range of companies exhibiting is testimony to Zambia’s growing presence on the international agricultural stage.
The ‘testing grounds’ for machinery will also be an opportunity for visitors to try out the equipment on display for themselves.
8. What will be your main message at AgriTech?
Whether you are a large corporate cropping operation or a small poultry farmer or anywhere in between, there will be a technology solution for you on display at AgriTech. Come, get stuck in, get your hands dirty and make the most of a very exciting agricultural event.