Timely call for farmers to grow more food
Published On May 9, 2016 » 1636 Views» By Bennet Simbeye » Opinion
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WE totally agree with Forum for Democratic Development (FDD) president Edith Nawakwi who has urged farmers to grow more maize for export.
It is also heartening to note that Zambia has become a regional food basket when other countries in southern Africa have inadequate maize.
As Ms Nawakwi has observed, local farmers could earn more money by expanding their maize production because the domestic and regional markets were ready for Zambia’s maize products.
We feel, this self-reliance in food security should be the beginning of affecting the calls President Edgar Lungu made last year for Zambia to diversify her economy from mining to agriculture.
As President Lungu noted, mining was a diminishing activity and, therefore, cannot last forever leaving only the option of agriculture for the country’s sustenance.
We feel the agricultural sector is the engine of economic growth, especially that the Patriotic Front (PF) Government has created an enabling environment to support growth across all sectors of the economy.
It is highly commendable that our farmers have made it since growing dry land crops like maize on any scale is hard work and yet most of Zambia’s maize is grown by small-scale farmers, the majority by hand.
Zambia is also blessed with an almost perfect climate for growing maize and potential yields in the country can equal any in the world.
Yet our national average maize yield is very low despite government extension officers and heavily subsidised fertiliser to the small-scale farmer.
The underlying reasons for this include our soil being destroyed by bad agricultural practices like burning of residues, over-grazing of residues and excessive soil disturbance.
If these issues among other impediments are addressed, the yields can be improved with Zambia producing maize for consumption and export.
Recently, former Agriculture minister in the MMD government, Eustakio Kazonga observed that there is need for appropriate policies that will ignite the exploitation of the agricultural sector through cropping, livestock and fisheries in the country.
He said for the exploitation to happen, there was need to allocate appropriate resources for extension, research, staff development, irrigation, dam construction, deep tanks, disease prevention and control as well as mechanisation.
He said the current policies in agriculture and its sub-sectors could be improved in order to respond to the current challenges in the sector.
The former minister however noted that despite the country having good policies, it lacked implementation because some of the policies have been overtaken by events.
Dr Kazonga observed that the cost of production of crops was very high and this had an impact on the price of mealie meal and export price.
Despite this, Zambia is feeding other regional countries and if more farmers worked hard the country can be a regional basket.
So far President Lungu has priotised agriculture, a move that will see Zambia successfully diversify from her over-dependence on mining to agriculture.

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