The participation of women in development activities has been an ongoing discussion for many years now all over the world. In Zambia, just like in many other countries, the Government, together with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) has launched a number of policies and programmes in the quest to encourage women participation in development activities. Even though measures have been put in place to increase women involvement in different activities, the level at which these women are participating is still considerably low.

According to a recent training evaluation conducted at the Agricultural Knowledge and Training Centre (AKTC) for the year 2018, only 31% of the attendees were women, while men’s attendance is at 69%, hence creating an imbalance in terms of the gender mainstreaming agenda.

Therefore, in order to increase the level of participation of women in our training programmes, the AKTC saw it fit to organize a training programme targeting women farmers only. The training focused on vegetable production with particular emphasis on tomato growing.

The training was attended by 48 women farmers from three provinces. Those who came from far places such as Chilanga in Lusaka and Mazabuka in Southern Province were accommodated at AKTC’s Sty Lodge (accommodation facility) found on the AKTC’S premises.

A number of these women were agricultural entrepreneurs and producers of vegetables, mostly targeting major agricultural markets in Zambia. Speaking to one of them, Mrs. Chimfwembe of Chilanga in Lusaka said she is a producer of vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbage as well as fruits like strawberries and supplies her vegetables to Soweto market and her strawberries to Food Lovers’ supermarket which is one of the leading fresh produce supermarkets in Zambia.

For her this programme was an opportunity to enhance her knowledge and skills in tomato production. “Like many farmers, I like building on the little knowledge and skills I have accumulated over time, whenever given an opportunity to do so. I hope to become an expert in tomato growing and help to extend the knowledge to my fellow women farmers” she said.

The training was conducted by the AKTC Vegetable Production short term expert Mr. Maulo Chibesa, who is also an Irrigation and Crop specialist at Amiran Zambia. He gave a detailed presentation on tomato production and general highlights on vegetable growing. On the first day of the training, farmers were exposed to the theoretical concept of land preparation in tomato fields, the planting process and crop management. The first day’s training ended with details on harvesting, handling and storage of the crop.

The second day of the training was more practical. It encompassed a field visit to the Conservation Farming Unit (CFU) demo farm, were various vegetables are grown, including tomatoes. The field visit was led by Ms. Lisa Sendwe, CFU’s farm manager. She explained to the farmers how she grows and manages her tomatoes, cabbages and green maize (fresh maize) all under drip irrigation. She further encouraged the women farmers to take the lead in Zambia’s agriculture especially vegetable production, indicating that she believes women have the potential to develop Zambia’s agriculture sector once empowered with the required knowledge and skills.

The training was one of AKTC’s 2018 training highlights as it brought together women of various backgrounds from across three provinces. For AKTC, it was a wonderful moment to host the first ever vegetable production training targeting women farmers since its establishment in 2014.

Looking forward, the training center plans to organize more similar trainings aimed at empowering Zambia’s women farmers, thus closing the knowledge gap that exists between the male and female farmers.

For upcoming AKTC training courses please visit our website www.aktczambia.com