Sunday, June 9, 2013
CHANDIGARH: The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is initiating development in Africa through many ways. One of them goes via Fazilka, the border city of Punjab.
The Fazilka connection is happening through Africa Lead, the three-year USAID programme. The purpose of Africa Lead is to support capacity building programme of the "Feed the Future (FTF)" initiative of the US government.
To achieve this, Africa Lead is building a cadre of African farm specialists, trained in all aspects in the development and commercialisation of agricultural industry.
This is where Fazilka comes into picture. Top resource persons from sub-Saharan nations like Liberia, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and others are being handpicked for training at Zamindara Farm Solutions (ZFS), Fazilka. A team of Africa Lead had come for training to Fazilka in December last year, while a second team has just wrapped up its 20-day training.
What caught the attention of USAID was the unique business model of ZFS, which works as an all-needs agricultural equipment company. ZFS sells new equipment, provides maintenance and parts, leases equipment with trained operators, establishes satellite enterprise village centres and also provides mechanised agricultural services on contract.
Speaking about his Fazilka experience at a press conference here on Saturday, one of the Africa Lead resource persons, Felix Temu of Tanzania, said, "At Fazilka, I have found a great level of trust between farmers and the service provider, Zamindara Farm Solutions. The farmers are able to get machinery with ease, which has led to improved production, labour savings and timely cultivation."
Temu, whose firm Tractors Ltd deals in agriculture machinery, said that his endeavour would be to train farmers in his own country and change their mindset. "It is important for them to invest in land mechanisation through hiring. This pay-for-use model will prove highly beneficial for my country," he reasoned.
Another participant in the training programme, Nicholas Abenda, a banker from Uganda, said, "The rental/hire option is working very well as compared to debt/lease finance model. It saves farmers the interest costs. Owning machines is not mandatory. A major benefit of this pay-for-use model is the follow-up on the asset/machine in regard to spares, repairs, trouble shooting and GPS locations, to name a few. This facility is not provided by banks."
Abenda, who works at Stanbic Bank, said he wants to promote the hire option in Africa to help farmers save on bad loans that are a result of huge farmer debts. "I also want to structure future agriculture leases and finance, based on agriculture seasons and not monthly basis. The monthly pattern is common in our economy," he remarked.
Also present on the occasion was Rwanda's Sam Rubagumya, managing director of Sopar Agro Industries, who said, "I want to improve the level of affordable farm mechanisation in my country with the pay-for-use model, in order to target high yields."
Talking about imparting training to the African team, Vikram Ahuja, director of ZFS, said that such exposure will open up new business opportunities for Indian businesses in Africa. "African companies heavily buy agricultural equipment from Europe. China is emerging as a dominant player in the African market. Indian machines are equally good and reasonably priced. Such interactions will increase exposure of African countries to India, and help us find new areas of growth," he said.
at 12:47 PM