Editor's Comment

Don’t mess up inputs distribution

WE ARE deeply concerned by revelations during President Edgar Lungu’s tour of duty in Northern Province that Mbala and Mpulungu have not yet received farm inputs despite the onset of the rainy season.
Traditional leaders in the area brought the matter to the President’s attention during a meeting held in Mbala at Chita Lodge on Saturday.
Chief Mpande, who spoke on behalf of the chiefs, said Mbala has the most stable climate with an average of seven months of rainfall.
He, however, lamented that not a single bag of fertiliser or seed has been distributed to farmers in the three neighbouring districts of Mbala, Mpulungu and Senga despite the region having received rains five times so far.
Of more concern is that reports submitted to the President by the Ministry of Agriculture indicate that Northern Province has received 100 percent inputs for the 2019/2020 farming season.
Presidential Affairs Minister Freedom Sikazwe explained that there is fertiliser in the depots in the region, but distribution of the farm inputs has not started yet.
If inputs have not been distributed to the actual beneficiaries, reports submitted to the Head of State should have indicated as such.
Delivering inputs to the depots and distributing to actual farmers are two different things.
It is sad that it has to take the whole Head of State to discover that inputs have not been distributed yet.
This means someone somewhere is not doing their job and must be held accountable.
At a time that the country is grappling with famine in some parts of the country due to drought, we cannot afford to have a poor harvest the coming season.
National barns are at their lowest, they need to be replenished.
And as pointed out by Chief Mpande, Mbala is one of the areas in the country with the most stable climate with an average of seven months of rainfall.
It is therefore prudent to ensure that yields are maximised in such areas to cover up for drought-prone ones.
This entails distributing inputs on time so that farmers can plant early to maximise output.
It is however disappointing that despite the promising signs of rains, farm inputs are yet to reach the beneficiaries.
According to Mr Sikazwe, distribution awaits an instruction from the Ministry of Agriculture.
What should prompt such an instruction, if not the rains?
Those charged with the responsibility to distribute inputs must understand the importance of timeliness in distribution.
There is no justifiable reason to fail to distribute inputs when they have already been delivered to depots. A good job was done to distribute the inputs to depots across the country, but the task is not complete without the fertiliser and the seed getting to the farmers.
It cannot be business as usual when the food security of the country is threatened.
It is saddening that at a time Government is trying to boost agriculture as the economic mainstay, some individuals entrusted with key responsibilities in the sector are not doing their job.
They perhaps have an explanation for this, but whatever it is, by now farmers should have been queuing up at depots and other outlets to collect the inputs.
Zambia has great potential to become the region’s food basket but not in this manner.
It is unfortunate that it seems the full picture of the status on the ground, vis-à-vis the inputs distribution, was not told.
The only positive out of this expose is that it has come at a fairly early time in the farming season. There is some measure of time available to make amends, for the good of Zambia and its people.
The discovery made by President Lungu during his tour of Northern Province validates his resolution not to depend only on reports he receives but to go round the country to check on projects physically.
The revelation is also a wake-up call to Members of Parliament and ministers to be on the ground and inspect projects for themselves as opposed to depending on reports.

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