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USAID, ZFS to initiate development in Africa

Vijay C Roy  |  New Delhi/ Chandigarh 

Having already recognised by the state government for its exemplary services, Punjab-based Zamindara Farm Solutions (ZFS), which offers agricultural equipment to small and marginal farmers at a nominal rent, has now caught the attention of USAID (United States Agency for International Development).

The Africa Lead programme, sponsored by USAID, has given a mandate to ZFS to train its highly-placed resource persons in this sustainable agriculture model.

The Africa Lead works for food security and sustainable agriculture in Africa and purpose is to support the 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 agricultural specialists trained in all aspects in the development and commercialisation of the agricultural industry.

Taking a step ahead in this direction, a team of Africa Lead came for training to ZFS at Fazilka in Punjab and just wrapped up its 20-day training. The mandate of this team was agri-business development.

The training focused on building the capacity to introduce and upgrade farm mechanisation techniques to rural farmers with small holdings in their home countries.

The training programme is managed by Development Alternatives Incorp (DAI), a global development company working on international development consulting.

In a statement issued by USAID, David Tardif-Douglin noted that the ZFS model of renting out a wide range of equipment to small farmers to meet any need is very applicable to Africa.

In the last few decades, Punjab farmers had been building up huge debts buying tractors and other farming equipment as a "matter of prestige".

Now, realisation is dawning even among Punjab farmers that the relatively short duration of the wheat and rice crop cycles make the purchase of agricultural equipment redundant.

Africa Lead is trying to replicate the same Sustainable Farm Mechanisation model in Africa by training its resource persons here.

Vikram Ahuja, the Director of Zamindara Farm Solutions, says such exposure will open new business opportunities for Indian businesses in Africa.

African 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 the exposure of African countries to India, and help us find new areas of growth," he said.

It is worth noting that ZFS leases farm equipment with trained operators to farmers, provides maintenance and parts, establishes satellite enterprise village centers, and also provides mechanised agricultural services on contract.

In addition, ZFS runs a training centre on agronomic best practices, equipment use, their maintenance, and also farm economics.

ZFS links farmers to extension services and training capsules through video-conferencing with university and research facilities.

Further, having covered 500 villages in Punjab, ZFS wants to cover a much-larger area of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan by increasing reach to the farmers and answering their needs.

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First Published: Sun, June 09 2013. 20:59 IST