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A ‘Manchester United’ farmer!

AS A keen follower and supporter of Manchester United in Britain and Kabwe Warriors on the local scene, our greatest rivals are Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City in England and Power Dynamos in Zambia. If you are a soccer follower like me, you will agree with me that Manchester United is the most decorated team in England – they have won the league twenty times; two times more than Liverpool. They have also gone to win the UEFA champions three times while Chelsea has only won it once. You might be wondering as how football or a football team can be compared to agriculture.
You will agree with me that when Sir Alex Ferguson was at the helm of the greatest Manchester United, he always delivered favourable results for us. None of us thought of a Manchester United without the great Alex; even with average players, he managed to win the most competitive league in the world. Immediately, the old man stepped down, the great Manchester United has never been itself. The last two seasons have been the worst and the most difficult for us. Unfortunately, the same players that managed to win the league the twentieth time under Sir Alex failed to deliver under the chosen one – Moyes. Why am I comparing Manchester United to our agriculture in Zambia?
For the past seven seasons before 2013/14 season, Zambia had received the best rains and we managed to produce the best crops around. We boasted of having bumper harvests and thought we were very good farmers. Sad enough, a good fraction of our produce went to waste as we did not have adequate storage facilities at national as well as household level. We became too wasteful. We are Christians and every day, we are reading the Bible but we seem not to understand it. We have a story about Joseph and King Pharaoh but we did not apply that lesson to us. What this has meant is that we now have the weather against us – we received below normal rainfall in 2013/14 and 2014/15 seasons. We pray and hope that we will have a normal rainy season this summer. Nonetheless, the Bible say people that don’t plan do perish. In the midst of quite a dry season, we have some farmers who practiced conservation agriculture with abundant food and managed to sell the excess. What this means is that we should not be like Manchester United who never planned of a period after Sir Alex. We can still be food secure if we plan our production and judiciously following conservation agriculture. We need to have a vision of what yields we expect next year and only then can we plan what interventions to put in place which will make us attain that yield.
There are three departments in a football team; the defence, the midfield and the striking force. The defence can be compared to how we store our produce and selling the excess. The midfield can be compared to how we plan our next production – what seed are we going to plant? What pesticides are we going to use and who are we going to get them from? How good are their products in terms of efficacy and reputation? Finally, the striking force is the way we implement our plans. Are we going to use minimum tillage? When should you plant and at what depth? How are you going to control the weeds – will it be mechanical by use of a hoe or you will use well known herbicides? What will be the fertiliser rate and which type of fertiliser? Will you protect your crop by spraying fungicides protectively or eradicatively? If the rains will not be favourable what plans have you put in place? Say will you plant both early maturing and late maturing varieties to mitigate the risk. Our agricultural planning should be better than that of Manchester United if we are to remain champions even in difficulty seasons. There are so many agronomists around that can help you plan and be on top of things. We have to be champions every season. Are you a ‘Manchester United’ farmer?
This author is an Agribusiness Practitioner.