Hard work pays

SUCCESS is often the result of hard work, coupled with foresight and planning. This is what can aptly be said about Zambia’s successes in the agriculture sector, particularly in the production of the staple, maize.
Zambia is this year poised for a third consecutive maize bumper harvest of over 3.6 million metric tonnes, the highest in the country’s history. This success is certainly not accidental. It is a result of meticulous planning and implementation of the set objectives.
This outcome, as unveiled yesterday by Minister of Agriculture Michael Katambo, shows that Zambia has what it takes to be a regional food basket.
The 3,620,244 metric tonnes of maize projected to be reaped represent an increase of seven percent compared to the 3,387,469 metric tonnes recorded during the 2019/2020 farming season.
Besides being grateful to God for the abundant rains, kudos are in order for Government for early distribution of inputs under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
For the past two farming seasons, Government has ensured early distribution of farm inputs through FISP.
This has helped the farmers to plant on time. We know that in the past farmers were disadvantaged due to delayed farm inputs, coupled with erratic rains.
In many instances farmers had a poor harvest because they planted late when rains had stopped. Living in times of climate change, sometimes rains come and stop earlier than expected.
Given such instances, it is best that farmers are prepared well in advance to be able to plant as soon as the first rains pour down.
It is good that as things stand now, Government is almost concluding distribution of inputs for the next farming season. This is unprecedented, and a mark of forward looking and walking the talk.
This is certainly a virtual guarantee of a bumper harvest provided the rains are also in abundance.
It is also good that besides the good rains and early input distribution, farmers were also proactive in adopting good agricultural practices, enhanced by more information being provided. This too has contributed to a good yield.
This goes to show that with the right policies and farming strategies in place, the country can produce enough food not only for its consumption but for export as well.
Neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Malawi and Democratic Republic of Congo, among others, are yawning markets for maize.
This is why we have high incidences of maize smuggling into those countries.
With bumper harvests, the export of maize would be legalised and the farmers would benefit directly. This will earn the country the much-needed foreign exchange.
This year’s bumper harvest should be a motivational factor for all stakeholders to work even harder for more huge harvests.
Farmers should work at producing more food every year by embracing efficient ways of farming.
Government should also not relent in providing a conducive environment under which farmers can excel. This entails putting in place good policies like FISP. It also entails developing good road infrastructure and providing access to finance and markets.
For farmers to expand production, they should adopt mechanised farming practices. This is expensive but the benefits are much better.
The farmers should, therefore, be helped in accessing affordable finance.
Better still, they should be encouraged by being offered good prices for their produce. That is the best way in which they would have sustainable income to plough back into farming, instead of each year expecting subsidised inputs.
Some stakeholders have proposed the introduction of a farmers’ bank for the sole purpose of providing these producers with affordable and tailor-made financial solutions. Let this be materialised.
That for a third year the country has been recording bumper harvests is not a licence to misuse the maize.
The Food Reserve Agency, as a body charged with responsibility to secure food in the country, will be expected to again ensure proper management of every grain that it buys.
Clearly, Zambia is on the right track to being the breadbasket of the region and to making the sector a major income-earner for the country and for individuals.