Analysis: JUDITH KONAYUMA
THE country is seeking ways of diversifying from dependency on copper to other sectors. And one of them that we are all in agreement with is agriculture, for reasons we know fully well.
The copper prices have not been faring well on the international market. The much-needed income for the country has been negatively impacted.
The mineral resource base is another factor that makes diversification from copper necessary. The increased exploitation of the mineral and the quest to make a profit has led to the depletion of copper.
Zambia is blessed with abundant land and this is where our focus is shifting to. This indeed, is a step in the right direction, considering that land is one of the factors of production.
In his inauguration speech on Tuesday, President Edgar Lungu, with a clear conviction, stated that he is ready to lead a green revolution that â€œmust culminate in sustainable food security from individual actions of each of usâ€.
To achieve this, the President directed that it was a pre-requisite, for anyone, from the rank of director in government ministries and departments, to engage in at least one agro-based activity.
He gave a hint of some of these activities as small-holder fish-farming, poultry or vegetable or any food production venture.
While the directive may be seen to be for directors in Government, it cuts across the Zambia able bodied population with the ability to be engaged in these ventures.
All too often, we are content in our white collar jobs while we buy the foodstuffs we need because it is not for us to engage in them.
Sometimes when we talk of agriculture, we only think of others and not ourselves. But it is the collective efforts, added up that can achieve astonishing results.
This call must be given attention. The activities cover a wide range of specialities in the agricultural sector and the country needs just this. It covers such areas as animal husbandry, crop cultivation, fish-farming, poultry and the like, just the activities the country needs to meet its food requirements.
This directive falls in the area of small-scale farming. Small-scale farmers in Zambia have sustained maize production for a long time now.
It is their collective efforts that contribute on an annual basis, to the maize bumper harvests that country has been consecutively recording.
President Lunguâ€™s new approach is only an extension of the efforts by the small-scale farmers.
He is calling on more people to be involved in producing food for the nation and this as a country we can do. The feasibility of such a venture is supported by abundant land and rainfall the country receives annually.
Zambiaâ€™s land size is said to be 75 million hectares (752,000 km2) large, of which 58 percent (42 million hectares) is potentially good for agricultural production and only about 15 percent of this land is currently under cultivation.
This picture presents us with hope that there is great potential for President Lunguâ€™s directive to bear fruit. Farmers need land so does any other person who wants to set up an agro-based venture and this land is available. We are talking about arable land.
The directive should also give Zambians hope that the land for such ventures maybe accessed. Sometimes we think of big portions of land even when it is possible that any sizeable portion can help a determined person to carry out his farming activities.
Take for instance, land for poultry purposes. Half an acre should be enough to enable one rear chickens and sell them for a profit. This is an activity which one would carry out even in the back of their yard. We are not talking about commercial farming.
The President is making the directive to senior men in Government, the men and women who supervise the implementation of polices. It is indeed a directive to this category of senior staff to lead by example and at the same time contribute to the nationâ€™s food production.
The President himself has promised to take the lead in this venture. His involvement should inspire the senior government workers and motivate them to work hard for the nation.
Every Zambian should be motivated to join in the venture. We all have the ability to grow food for consumption and for export. With the amount of land and the fair climate, there is no excuse to have a food deficit.
With this directive, the nation is able to produce excess food which can be exported to earn income. The best example we have is the current demand for maize in the region. A number of our neighbours are looking up to us to buy maize.
Agriculture is the sustainable means to drive the economy of the nation. Let it start from this small level and the nation will be food secure.
The author is Sunday Mail editor.
Analysis: JUDITH KONAYUMA