Editor's Comment

President Lungu resolute on making agric a success

PRESIDENT Lungu’s quick and timely intervention on the outbreak of army worms in most provinces is yet another confirmation that the head of State is resolute on ensuring that the agriculture sector succeeds and becomes our economic mainstay.
The President’s intervention comes barely two weeks after he directed agro dealers and Government agencies to ensure distribution of inputs to all farmers across the country. This was after his three-day tour to Luangwa, Rufunsa and Chirundu revealed that despite being in the planting season, some farmers had not yet received farm inputs.
And not too long ago, President Lungu announced that Government would no longer determine the maize floor price but would allow farmers to value their produce.
This is in an effort to allow farmers to sell their produce at a competitive market price as well as motivate them to produce more.
Now that the budding maize crop is under threat due to the outbreak of destructive pests, the President is unsettled.
In view of this, President Lungu has with immediate effect directed the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit to join the Ministry of Agriculture in an emergency operation to curb the spread of army worms.
The crop-eating caterpillars with capacity to wipe out thousands of hectares of crop overnight have invaded some districts on the Copperbelt, Luapula and Central provinces thereby threatening food security.
President Lungu is concerned that if the outbreak of these destructive pests is not controlled, the crop yield from the 2016/17 farming season may be negatively affected.
If not contained in good time, the outbreak of army worms can compromise our food security and the income of the over 60 percent of Zambian households that depend on farming.
At a time Government is supporting and encouraging farmers to produce more to ensure food security and cater for the yawning regional market, these small, yet destructive, creatures have potential to negate government’s efforts.
Meteorological experts have assured us of abundant rain throughout the season. Our expectations for a bumper harvest are, therefore, very high.
However, the dream of a bumper harvest can easily be turned into a nightmare if these crop eating pests are not taken care of decisively and expeditiously.
We are, therefore, elated by the quick action taken by President Lungu to combat these pests before they spread and cause further damage.
At the presidential directive, the DMMU and Ministry of Agriculture yesterday commenced random checks across the country to ensure that the emergency operation of spraying is going on as directed.
The operation is also being done in collaboration with Zambia Air Force, which has been tasked to airlift chemicals to affected areas for spraying in the fields.
Government should also be commended for buying 5,000 litres of chemicals at a cost of K3.5 million to control the pests.
Government has also done well to distribute chemicals to provinces that are not affected as this will help prevent further spread of the army worms.
It is, however, our hope that district and provincial agriculture co-ordinators who have been charged with the responsibility of distributing chemicals to beneficiaries will do so in a transparent and efficient manner.
We do not expect to hear of chemicals being diverted. They should be used for the intended purpose, and that is to eliminate army worms.
Going forward, Government and Zambia National Farmers’ Union should also empower farmers with knowledge on how to deal with these pests in an event that they invade their farms.
Government should also invest more in army worm traps for early detection of the pests.

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