THE Cotton Association of Zambia has commenced countrywide training programmes in bio-energy production and cotton value chain development for all member cotton growers.
In a statement signed by Ministry of Finance spokesperson Chileshe Kandeta, association executive director Joseph Nkole said as part of the organisation’s contribution to the fight against climate change through sustainable industrialisation, members’ training programmes in the manufacturing of briquettes made from cotton stalks – hitherto, a waste from cotton harvest was underway.
Speaking during a presentation of “Empowering Smallholder Farmers along the Cotton Value Chain” to finance minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu in Lusaka on Tuesday, Nkole explained that the use of cotton stalks to manufacture briquettes had significantly improved revenue earnings for participating members.
He said the association was collaborating with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development [UNCTAD] to develop skills in bio-energy production among member cotton growers.
Nkole said the move would contribute to reduced dependency on the national grid for farm electric power.
He confirmed that following the financial stimulus receive from the government through the Citizens Economic Empowerment Programme and other trade financing facilities from development partners, cotton output has significantly improved and has positioned the country as one of the leading producers in the region.
The association submitted that cotton production still provides the most significant opportunity for smallholder farmers to venture in cash crop farming.
They took the opportunity to showcase some of the value-added cotton products from their members.
“Over one-thousand farmers from Muchinga, Eastern, Central, Lusaka, and Southern provinces have been trained in cotton value chain skills through a GRZ, European Union and COMESA jointly managed programme that is targeted at upgrading their produce to export standard,” said Nkole.
And Dr Ng’andu commended the association for its efforts in improving the livelihoods of rural folk as it was in the right direction of the country’s quest to re-establish the textile industry.
He applauded the association for establishing members’ skills development programmes and for creating job opportunities, especially for the youth, through the cotton value chain.
“We need to stop environmental degradation by reducing deforestation so that climatic conditions are stabilised,” Dr Ng’andu said.
He condemned the rapid loss of forest cover due to unregulated cutting of trees but was encouraged by the association’s youth empowerment programmes aimed at sustainable use of natural resources and agriculture value-chain products.
“As government, we want your programme to succeed,” said Dr Ng’andu.