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People have no food, says Mpezeni

PARAMOUNT Chief Mpezeni of the Ngoni people says many parts of the province have been affected by hunger.

And Vice-President Inonge says she is visiting districts that were affected by drought and floods to see the kind of support they can receive from government.

Speaking when Vice-President Inonge Wina, who is on a four-day tour of Eastern Province paid a courtesy call on him on Friday, Mpezeni said people have no food.

“We received good rains but it went a bit early, so people have no food. We are complaining through your office so that you can also assist people here with food. Places like Lundazi are worse off but us on the plateau are much better. So you should also consider us in as far as relief food is concerned,” he said.

Mpezeni thanked government for giving out inputs under Farmer Input Support Programme early and that many people had benefitted.

“Again, maybe it’s because of the high dollar/kwacha exchange rate, the prices of fertiliser have gone up. At the moment a bag of fertiliser is going at K380 so a lot of people will not buy because they have no money. I don’t know how we can be helped. All the time children cry to their parent so government is our parent. You know the children cry to us and we relay that message to government,” he said.

Mpezeni said very soon fertiliser would reach K400 per bag and a villager like him would not afford.

Later, the Vice-President asked agriculture experts to tell the delegation any other alternative means that could be used like smart agriculture without using a lot of fertiliser.

Eastern Province permanent secretary Dr Buleti Nsemukila said Lumezi had reduced the number of fertiliser support to only 6,000 people because they were doing climate smart agriculture by using conservation farming.

Dr Nsemukila said in those areas they were discouraging the use of fertilisers.

He said with conservation agriculture, the use of fertilisers could be reduced because government was spending more on fertiliser.

Vice-President Wina said the government was spending so much money when the fertiliser reaches the end users who were the farmers.

“When it reaches the furthest points, it is even more (expensive) because of transport costs, so with all these things put into consideration. That’s why this knowledge of other forms of fertiliser that we can use should be shared. That’s why we have camp officers, what are they doing?” she asked.

Vice-President Wina said it was frustrating to the paramount chief because his people complain to him that fertiliser was too expensive.

“..because it’s very frustrating to his royal highness, his people will come to complain ‘the fertilizer is too expensive’ but what can he do other than reporting to government? And government is producing very little fertiliser, very small quantities at Kafue Nitrogen Chemicals (of Zambia), most of the fertiliser is being imported into the country at a cost which we cannot negotiate there. So the only thing, teach us that we have to do the other method of agriculture to produce food but we have to do it quickly,” she said.

Vice-President Wina hoped that one smart investor will start producing fertiliser in Zambia.

Permanent secretary in the Office of the Vice-President Stephan Mwansa said intercropping also helps.

Earlier, Vice-President Wina informed the Paramount Chief that she was in the province to tour some districts that President Edgar Lungu did not visit last week so that the people should not think that they were neglected.

She said resettlements fall under her office and that government’s desire was to see that there was food production in those places.

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