By ALICE NACHILEMBE
The Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) says food price hikes combine with reduced incomes and unfavorable exchange rates, can significantly affect households.
CTPD Researcher -Trades and Development Emmanuel Muma said millions could be pushed into extreme poverty.
Mr Muma said this risk has the potential to derail progress already made in promoting sustainable diets for all, especially among the vulnerable households living in areas with high poverty rates.
He said there is need to promote sustainable agriculture food production and supply chain, and technology solutions and innovations that can transform the agriculture sector and change people’s livelihoods.
Mr Muma said small scale farmers and entrepreneurs in particular have been vulnerable to the economic effects of the pandemic in the areas of production and supply chain disruption.
He said having but not limited to agriculture technology solutions can help to overcome these challenges by enabling digital banking, digital marketing platforms and facilitating innovation for efficient use of Agric inputs to increase factor production.
Mr Muma said the center is saddened to note the low knowledge levels and digital technology usage among small-scale farmers and traders in Zambia.
He said the Zambia Development Agency 2020 export audit survey report shows that a significant number of Zambian traders about 96% do not have knowledge of the online Zambia Export Trade Portal compared to only 4% with this knowledge.
Mr Muma said the lack of knowledge and low levels of digital technology usage especially in rural areas in Zambia could mean among other things lack of or weak pro-poor and inclusive innovation and technology transfer.
He said challenges and setbacks to promoting technology and innovation in Zambia include among other things, limited or no access to rural information and technology infrastructure, high poverty and illiteracy levels, imperfect and limited access to information and technology.
Mr Muma said Government should be concerned with extending the information and benefits of innovation and technology to formerly excluded groups across the county, especially in rural areas were access to network and internet connectivity is limited or absent.
He said CTPD, encourages public -private partnership (PPP) between network service providers such as Airtel Zambia, Zamtel and MTN and government to enhance investment in digital technology by introducing new digital platforms, installation of new network digital infrastructures in rural areas, developing digital skills, and creating an enabling regulatory environment for farmers and entrepreneurs in Zambia.
Mr Muma also recommend that Government policy aimed at improving ICT infrastructure; and establishing ICT resource centers in rural areas to promote micro, small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs’) technological externalities within the agriculture sector.
He said the center would like to urge the government to embark on national strategies for universal access to electricity, innovations, technology, internet connectivity and irrigation agriculture systems in order to facilitate resurgence and strengthen resilience of the agriculture production and supply chain as highlighted in this article.