Columnists

Plight of small-scale farmers

CHAMBO

Analysis: CHAMBO NG’UNI
IF THERE is one thing I have learnt during my travels in different provinces in Zambia, it is that this country is a hub of maize production.This is largely because God has blessed Zambia with favourable climate, arable land, fertile soil, and of course, hard-working farmers.
The farmers also grow crops such as soya beans, rice, cassava, millet and sorghum.
While people in urban areas are engaged in white-collar jobs in the public and private sectors and in commercial and trade areas, among other sources of livelihood, those in rural areas are fully-fledged farmers.
Farming is the main economic activity in rural areas and all-year round farmers are engaged in agriculture or agricultural related activities.
If the farmers are not preparing their land in readiness to plant their seed, they are busy making efforts to secure fertiliser, pesticides and other farming inputs.
If they are not tending their crop by way of weeding, protect it against birds and rodents, they are applying chemicals to have a health crop.
The farmers also have to harvest their crop and clean it in readiness for the crop marking season.
The farmers keep a portion of their crop for consumption and they sell the surplus to the Food Reserve Agency and other grain buyers.
While this is happening, the farmers are thinking of paying school fees for their children, buying equipment and also planning for the next farming season.
During the rainy season, Zambia is literally transformed into a green field as maize takes over every available farmland.
As farmers depend on the rainy season for their crop, over 90 percent of the maize grown in Zambia is rain feed.
To appreciate that Zambia has hard working farmers, all one needs to do is to travel to five of the 10 provinces.
It can be Central, Muchinga, Eastern, Southern and Northern, all these provinces are maize hubs.
According to the Central Statistical Office (CSO) 2017/2018 crop forecasting survey in the 2017/2018 harvest season, Central Province is expected to produce 466,877 metric tonnes of maize.
Eastern Province is expected to produce 459, 747 metric tonnes, Southern 361,155, Muchinga 255, 025, Northern 240,369, Copperbelt 174,461, North-Western 151, 078, Luapula 108,896, Lusaka 97, 192 and Western 85,108.
If it is not the actual green maize or dried up crop in the field, it is the harvested crop on farmers’ homesteads or hundreds of bags of maize at depots.
The maize that FRA and other grain buyers buy from farmers is for production of mealie meal and stock feed locally while some of it is exported to neighbouring countries.
And if Zambia is able to sell maize to her neighbours, this is an indication that the country has potential to increase her foreign exchange earnings.
Therefore, Government and other players in the agriculture sector need to continue encouraging small-scale farmers to increase production of maize and other crops.
Government and cooperating partners should sustain good policies and programmes aimed increasing land under cultivation and boosting crop production among farmers.
If as a country we are to make agriculture the economic mainstay, there is need to alleviate challenges faced by small-scale farmers.
Late delivery of farming inputs under programmes like the Farmer Input
Support Programmes and late payments to farmers by crop buying agencies need to be addressed.
Farmers also need access cheaper farming inputs, implements and other agro associated products and services.
The challenge of a poor road network in rural areas also needs be addressed. Farmers are disadvantaged when it comes to transportation of their crop to the market and implements to their farms.
Zambia should remain grateful and thankful to God that it is a country blessed in many areas. With the right remedy, Zambia has got what it takes to be a great country which is able to feed other countries globally.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail senior reporter.

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