NEWS that Zambia National Service (ZNS) will this season use 4,000 hectares of land to grow wheat, soya beans and maize is not only commendable but evidence of Government’s resolve to ensure food security and make Zambia a regional food basket.
It is particularly gratifying that despite the country recording a bumper harvest of 3.6 metric tonnes of maize for the 2016/2017 farming season against the total consumption requirement of 1.8 metric tonnes, Government will not settle for less.
By ZNS cultivating 4,000 hectares of land, the production of wheat, soya beans and maize will be boosted by 32 percent from the 2016/2017 farming season.
In a policy statement to Parliament, Minister of Defence Davies Chama said of the 4,000 hectares, 2,460 will be allocated for growing maize while wheat and soya beans will be grown on 960 and 590 hectares, respectively.
“We recognise the importance of the agriculture sector in enhancing economic growth of the country. We will continue increasing our production annually to contribute to the country’s food security,” Mr Chama said.
ZNS should indeed be commended for taking a lead in harnessing the country’s agriculture potential by committing to increasing production every year.
It is good that ZNS is putting to good use the land Zambia is abundantly blessed with.
According to World Bank statistics, Zambia, despite having 58 percent land classified as medium to high potential for agriculture production only 15 percent being cultivated.
It is regrettable that for the past decades Zambia has failed to take advantage of the favourable climate, abundant arable land and water to exploit its agriculture potential.
Nonetheless, it is now heartening to see more land being used for agricultural purposes and ZNS leading the way.
This is much more so because of the political will and policies that Government has put in place.
We know that Government under President Lungu is focused on making agriculture Zambia’s economic mainstay in a bid to move away from over-dependency on copper. This is because copper has proved unreliable due to external economic forces.
The target to increase agricultural production annually is indeed a practical step to not only ensure food security but boost the much needed foreign exchange.
We know that with increased production, the country will have enough to feed on and export to other countries.
Given the yawning market of agricultural products in the region, increasing production is certainly the way to go to meet demand.
Zambia must reach a level where it can freely export huge amounts of produce without the fear of depleting its food reserves.
As a country blessed with land and favourable climatic conditions, it is a mockery to be considered the third hungriest country in the world. Whether true or not, this is not a tag for Zambia.
With efforts such as the one taken by ZNS, Zambia is on the right path to eradicate poverty.
With the pledge to consign the hoe to the museum, it is absolutely right that Government is buying modern agriculture equipment for five ZNS units to boost production.
Through the presidential milling initiative, ZNS is going a step further to set up a milling plant in Monze and another one in Mpika with a production capacity of 240 metric tonnes of mealie-meal each per day.
This is clear demonstration that ZNS has already positioned itself to contribute to the industrialisation agenda, which emphasises manufacturing and value addition.
It is also our hope that citizens will rise to the challenge and engage in agricultural activities to boost production.
As long as Zambia has not yet acquired the status of regional food basket, the country should continue to strive for bigger harvests.