FQM looking to improve market potential for local farmers

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In its quest to help small-scale farmers in North-Western Province add value to their crops, First Quantum Minerals is exploring opportunities for enhanced packaging and marketing initiatives.

Some 5,000 smallholder farmers benefit from the company’s conservation farming programme, which helps reduce poverty and improve food security.
A key component is this is provision of access to markets, which can help the farmers increase their income and improve their livelihoods.

“The decision to train the farmers came after numerous complaints from them on the lack of access to a sustainable market. This led to the mine sending a team from the Kansanshi Foundation to South Africa to attend the farmers’ market in Johannesburg to learn best practices, that we can then replicate and adapt back home,” said FQM’s Kansanshi foundation supervisor, Maximillian Katanga.

The team also visited farmers markets in Mpumalanga and Freestate in South Africa, in conjunction with the Zambia Development Agency and North-West Chamber of Commerce to learn about agribusiness.

Johannesburg farmers’ market boasts 107 vendor stalls, selling carefully selected local fresh produce and artisanal products, bringing together both new and experienced marketeers.

“They have a turnover of half a billion US dollars, and a lot of their export is to Europe, the Middle East and Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. We are equally placed to do the same here and Solwezi airport has been upgraded so that large cargo planes can land. The possibility of setting up a regional hub here for food is huge in the long term,” said Katanga.

Through its conservation farming project, the company has assisted over 30,000 farmers with subsidised inputs, training, monitoring and mentorship for maize, soya and groundnut production.

“We also wanted to see how the market is run, how it was funded and how it later became self-sustaining. What we observed is a system that the South Africans use, called the small enterprise development agency, which trains and prepares small enterprises on how to run and manage their businesses sustainably and access funds.

“We realised that Zambia is better placed than Jo’burg to host a farmers’ market, in that we have a regional market which we can activate. We have Angola on the western side, on the northern, Congo DR and if well managed, it has the potential to reach Malawi and Tanzania,” he said.

Transporter Buks Haulage Limited (BHL) has also opened up a new trade route between North-Western Province and Walvis Bay that has massively reduced the time and expense of accessing the Namibian port, providing a new opportunity for the farmers to access new markets.

The vision of the mining firm is to actively work towards sustainable, transparent and responsible economic and social development, by positively contributing to supply chain development and capacity building for businesses within the host communities of the Trident Project.

“For the market to work, the farmers need to be very consistent all year round and not seasonal. So, it calls for us to train them, ensuring smallholders develop their entrepreneurship skills and compete more effectively,” he explained.

He said farmers need to improve on value and become well-co-ordinated in setting up hubs where they can bring their produce together.

FQM runs a Local Business Development PProgramme to help remove barriers to small and medium enterprise growth, and link local businesses to economic opportunities in Solwezi and beyond, including international market linkages.

Through its Kansanshi Foundation in Solwezi, the company has also stepped up its campaign to end poverty, fight inequality, and tackle climate change in the communities where it operates.

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