KABANDA CHULU, Serenje
SENIOR chiefs Chitambo and Kabamba of the Lala people have advised farmers in Serenje and Chitambo districts to reduce on maize cultivation and instead increase production of other high value crops, which are sold on cash basis to agri-businesses.
The traditional leaders said this when Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) Limited agriculture and farmer support services manager Richard Mumba informed them during the tour of the newly-commissioned US$ 100,000 rice processing plant funded by Musika Development Initiative, that the organisation pays farmers immediately after delivering produce.
Senior Chief Chitambo cited rice production as one of the high value crops farmers should consider growing.
He also observed that the rice processing plant is at risk of becoming a â€˜white elephantâ€™ if small-scale farmers do not scale-up rice production.
â€œWe need to support this plant by increasing production of rice especially that COMACO is not like FRA, which doesnâ€™t pay cash so let us diversify away from growing maize and focus on crops that are sold for cash since we have to raise money for school fees and other basic needs,â€ he said.
Earlier, Chief Kabamba said people in the two districts feel neglected.
â€œWe wanted the Minister of Agriculture [Dora Siliya] to come and listen to our concerns. What does it mean when Government says â€˜early plantingâ€™ yet seeds and fertilisers have not been delivered? Most people here are peasant farmers and usually depend on Government for inputs.â€
â€œGovernment is also advising that we should not sell to other buyers other than FRA yet the agency only pays farmers six months after getting maize from farmers. Even the growing of rice to support the processing plant will be a challenge since some farmers are still owed for the maize supplied to FRA, â€ he asked.
In response, Central Province head of agriculture Adreen Nansungwe assured the traditional leaders that the concerns will be reported to higher authorities.
Ms Nansungwe also said; â€œWe are encouraging our people that farming is not only maize cultivation, they should grow other crops, and with the e-voucher they can access any other seeds and inputs apart from maize. We have already started distribution of inputs and some farmers have started receiving although there
KABANDA CHULU, Serenje