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Govt won’t tolerate a business as usual approach in agriculture, warns Lungu

OUR success in the fight against effects of climate change calls for mindset change, says President Edgar Lungu.

Speaking at the launch of the 2019/2020 planting season in Chikankata district yesterday, President Lungu said there was need to change farming practices.

He said the launch marked the beginning of collective efforts in addressing some challenges that have affected the country and the agriculture sector in recent times.

“These challenges include the inability by our farmers to produce enough maize resulting in high mealie-meal prices. The low maize production has also caused failure by our farmers and millers to make use of the export markets within the region,” he said.

“Today’s event will form the basis upon which we will determine whether by next year, agricultural challenges would have been addressed. Therefore, it is important for farmers to plant early, use certified seed and use fertilisers recommended by extension officers in your areas.”

President Lungu urged farmers to be wary of crooked businessmen and women of fake seed, fertiliser and other inputs.

He advised farmers to buy seed certified by the Ministry of Agriculture.

He also advised farmers to retain all packaging materials to help the Ministry of Agriculture undertake verifications in case inputs are discovered not to be genuine and are of poor quality.

“To this effect, I urge Zambia Police and other security wings to be vigilant and bring all culprits selling fake inputs to book,” he said.

President Lungu said it was befitting that the launch for the planting season was taking place in Southern Province, one of the biggest agricultural regions in Zambia.

He said the region was once the bread basket of Zambia for many years, yet the effects of climate change had altered this status in recent years.

“The growth prospects of the agriculture sector in this part of zambia has narrowed, and this, is indeed worrisome. With this prevailing scenario in Southern Province, there is urgent need for government to come up with alternative solutions to mitigate the challenge,” he said.

“One of the most important solutions to the devastation is replenishing the province with trees through a tree planting initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.”

President Lungu said deforestation was one of the major causes of climate change and urged all Zambians to make it a habit to plant as many trees as possible and to avoid indiscriminate cutting of trees.

“Farmers countrywide are struggling to contain the effects of climate change which include droughts, floods and extreme temperatures, resulting in increased outbreaks of pests and diseases,” President Lungu said.

“Our success in the fight against effects of climate change squarely lies in our approach. This calls for mindset change. we need to change our farming practices.”

He said the government would not tolerate a business as usual approach in the agriculture sector.

“For the current farming season, my government has resolved to implement the e-voucher system, under the Farmer Input Support Programme, in areas which have continued to be affected by dry spells and droughts,” he said.

“These areas include Southern and Western provinces. Southern and Western provinces are the worst hit by the effects of climate change.”

The inputs, according to the President, would include drought resilient crop varieties, early maturing varieties for maize, and other crops.

“My government cherishes the partnership with agro-dealers in the FISP programme. Unwavering effort by agro-dealers has contributed to the success of the e-voucher programme,” he said.

President Lungu said he was aware that the government owed agro-dealers from the previous seasons and assured them that the government was actively exploring the best options to resolve the issue.

He also said the government had embarked on various projects across the country to develop irrigation infrastructure.

“The irrigation projects are expected to be completed in three years’ time, and an additional twelve thousand hectares of land in the country is earmarked for irrigation,” he said.

“My government, through our extension service system, is scaling up the promotion of climate SMART agriculture, especially, amongst small-scale farmers in dire need of knowledge on good agricultural practices.”

President Lungu urged all extension officers to ensure adequate support is given to farmers.

President Lungu said he was happy to see more farmers adopting and practising conservation farming, and appealed to the Zambia National Farmers Union and the Conservation Farming Unit to continue offering support to all farmers, and to collaborate with government in promoting conservation agriculture.

“I am eager to kick-start farming activities this season and I am happy that farmers in Southern Province are already redeeming their inputs. Let me urge the Ministry of Agriculture, all district staff and agro-dealers involved in issuing inputs to expedite this process so that our farmers commence planting,” said President Lungu.

“All farmers have an extra incentive to grow a lot of maize this season because of the huge market which has been created in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).”

Earlier, President Lungu expressed gratitude to local farmer Norah Hachiwa Mubiana for hosting the event.

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