By PERPETUAL SICHIKWENKWE-
ZAMBIA has been described by some global experts as a country with phenomenal agriculture potential which, if fully harnessed, can help to address looming global hunger and food shortages.
In moving to exploit this potential, Government recently commissioned newly acquired agriculture and earth moving equipment worth over K18 million for Zambia National Service (ZNS).
The equipment is meant to boost the production of wheat and soya beans which are high-value crops being cultivated by the ZNS.
The move would result in increased performance of the economy.
President Hakainde Hichilema has directed the ZNS command to ensure that by 2025, it doubles the production of wheat and soya beans for the benefit of the nation and others.
Among the projects targeted is the ZNS Airport farm, a mechanized facility which was established on May 25, 2000.
The service is currently contributing 6.328 metric tonnes of wheat to the national food basket, with efforts being underway to expand the current hectarage for wheat.
Defence Minister Ambrose Lufuma recently commissioned two combine harvesters, two excavators and six tipper trucks that are meant for use under agricultural projects as well as a wide range of earthworks in real time.
The initiative to commission the equipment was special to the Government as it signaled the enhancement of road infrastructure development and improved agricultural production in the ZNS.
Speaking at the commissioning of the newly acquired equipment, Mr Lufuma, who was encouraged to see that the landmark event had attracted the support of other security wings and Government ministries, said the combine harvesters were important in the efficient and effective mopping up of grain.
Mr Lufuma said the Government has placed a high premium on the commercialisation of the agricultural sector and efforts aimed at the speedy realisation of that objective deserves commendation.
“You must be fully aware that we have set aside funds in the 2023 Budget to establish farm blocks across the country in line with that vision,” Mr Lufuma said.
The Defence Minister said the Government feels encouraged to see ZNS supplementing the Government efforts through the purchase of two multi-purpose combine harvesters.
“The service’s highly ambitious programme of enhancing its contribution to the productivity of the nation through mechanisation of farm operations deserves commendation,” Mr Lufuma said.
He said it is only by embracing modern agricultural methods and technology that the productivity of Zambia, as a nation, can be raised to a level where it can impact the overall performance of the economy.
Mr Lufuma further said it must be appreciated that with the on-going war in Ukraine, there is an awakening among many African countries regarding the need to grow more food.
“So apart from pushing for the attainment of food sovereignty, the New Dawn Government is working on incentivising the farming community in order to position our country to be a net exporter of various agricultural produce,” Mr Lufuma said.
The Defence said considering that ZNS has inherent strength to sufficiently contribute to the enhanced productivity of the nation, President Hichilema, as Commander-in-Chief, directed the ZNS command to work on doubling the service’s current wheat and soya bean products by 2025.
He said it is in line with the President’s directive that the ZNS commander is expected to speedily bring Lisutu and Luanshya irrigation projects at Chirundu and Mufaulira into production.
Mr Lufuma said the Government is equally elated to note that ZNS has continued to reposition itself to be a reliable tool of the Government in carrying out construction projects involving various all-weather earthworks.
“It is especially heartwarming to realise that the service is adding more tasted brands of heavy-duty pieces of equipment to his ageing fleet,” the Defence minister said.
He said the Government is in a hurry to leverage the skill set empowerment of the ZNS and its military’s dedication and commitment to duty to significantly improve the nation’s rural road, dam and airstrip infrastructure.
Mr Lufuma said these, along with other initiatives, are being unlocked through the enhanced Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
He said the connectivity that will be achieved from the construction of the various infrastructure will feed into improved national agriculture productivity.
ZNS Commander Lieutenant General Mailiti Solochi expressed gratitude to the Government for demonstrating confidence in the ability of the service to contribute to the development agenda of the nation, especially in terms of its contribution to the country’s national food basket and enhanced infrastructure.
He informed the Defence Minister that the service is determined to ensure that it adequately contributes to making agriculture one of the key drivers of the country’s economic transformational agenda.
Lt Gen Solochi said the ZNS is currently contributing 6. 328 metric tonnes of wheat to the national food basket and plans are underway to expand the current hectarage for the service from 900 to 1,300 before the end of next year.
This will translate into an annual production output of at least 10,400 metric tonnes of wheat.
The ZNS commander said the purchase of the modern pieces of agricultural machinery was funded from internally generated resources at the cost of US426,000.
He said the equipment will enhance efficiency in the harvesting of the crop as it will be a better grain yield due to adaptation to good agricultural practices that will also reduce crop wastage.
Lt Gen Solochi said the ZNS is more than confident that it will soon begin to reap the benefits of the money spent in procuring the pieces of the new machinery.
He said the ZNS is continuously working on improving service efficiency in wheat production in order to build on its agricultural production portfolio.
“This is what is being demonstrated by the procurement of two combine harvesters, two excavators and six tipper trucks that are able to undertake agricultural and a wide range of earth works in real time,” Lt Gen Solochi said.
The ZNS Airport farm acting commanding officer Major Mike Mwitwa expressed happiness with the decision of the ZNS command to purchase new pieces of equipment that coincided with the flagging off of the wheat harvest at the farms on October 19, 2022.
Maj Mwitwa said a versatile combine harvester becomes critical with an all-year production calendar, besides being useful in the big stretch of land under cultivation annually.
He said although the farm has had a combine harvester since 2008, its effectiveness has been greatly weakened over the years, thereby negatively affecting the speed at which the officers were able to complete harvest exercise.
He said this also affected the time at which the next cycle of production was to be undertaken.
Maj Mwitwa said the unit at the ZNS Airport farm is excited about the commissioning of the equipment and especially the acquisition of a more efficient harvester which it cannot wait to put to effective use.
“We, therefore, wish to assure command that we shall work tirelessly to repay the confidence that has been demonstrated in the gesture to extend this piece of machinery to our unit,” Maj Mwitwa said.
He said he was more than confident that the ZNS Airport farm will have improved operations to feed into improved productivity of the service.
The ZNS Airport farm received its first installation of a 60-hectare-circle centre pivot irrigation equipment in 2005 and since then, it has been steadily expanding to the current position of three pivots, translating into 180 hectares of the irrigated crop, alternating wheat and soya bean production.
The farm is involved in irrigated agriculture as well as in 320 hectares of rain-fed field crop, bringing the total hectarage of land under active production to 500 hectares.