WITH the launch of the 2020/2021 planting season yesterday in Petauke, Eastern Province, farmers across the country are by now busy buying inputs in readiness for sowing.
While farmers are busy trying to secure inputs and other necessary tools for farming, fraudsters are also busy strategising how to take advantage of the situation.
In the past farming seasons, we’ve had situations where farmers were swindled out of their hardearned cash.
In some situations we’ve had farmers paying for inputs which were never delivered.
In other instances farmers have been sold fake inputs which failed to yield anything.
This is why President Edgar Lungu is warning farmers to be wary of plans and attempts by criminals to cheat them by selling fake inputs such as seed and fertiliser.
Certainly, farmers cannot afford to be negligent and be swindled out of the much-needed capital at such a critical time, neither can they afford to buy fake inputs.
As rightly stated by the President, the planting season is a very critical period which all farmers should take seriously to achieve good yields and a good harvest.
What farmers do during this planting season will determine how good the harvest will be and whether the country will be foodsecure or not.
If farmers plant fake or poor quality seed, coupled with application of fake fertilisers, it means there will be no harvest to talk about.
Needless to say, if farmers fail to secure a good harvest now by planting quality seed and using the right fertilisers, it means even after the harvest season they will not be able to improve their livelihoods.
Most of them who wholly depend on farming as an annual source of income may struggle to meet the basic needs of their families such as food, education and health care, among others.
This is why farmers must be vigilant during this period. They should not allow themselves to be swindled by these criminals by getting inputs from recognised outlets.
They should also not entertain third parties in the purchase of inputs. Farmers must take charge
of buying inputs themselves or assign trusted family members.
As directed by the head of State, the security wings must also be alert to bring these fraudsters to book.
These criminals must not be allowed to terrorise the farmers and stand in the way for a bumper harvest.
Given that rains seem to have started on time, farmers must take advantage and ensure that they plant early.
Farmers now even have the option of planting early-maturing seed in case of erratic rains.
Farmers should take advantage of every opportunity within their reach to maximise on the harvest.
We know that this year, Government distributed inputs under FISP on time. This means
that for this farming season, farmers cannot hide behind delayed inputs as an excuse for failing to secure a good harvest.
Farmers should also desist from the retrogressive tendency of selling inputs distributed to them
under FISP. This is irresponsible behaviour which should not be condoned.
During this planting season we also expect farmers to adopt good farming practices such as
conservation to maximise on yields.
The Ministry of Agriculture must also heed the President’s directive to ensure that all extension officers
provide adequate support to the farmers during this period.
It is sad that some extension officers, instead of doing what they are employed to do – to support
farmers – they concentrate on their own farming projects.
The Ministry of Agriculture must organise itself to ensure that every extension officer counts in the field
this planting season.
Above all, the bigger responsibility lies on the shoulders of farmers themselves to ensure that they take advantage of every opportunity before them and Government’s goodwill, to secure a bumper harvest for the country.