Strengthening extension services on cards – Siliya

GOVERNMENT says there is need to strengthen extension services, increase investments in agricultural infrastructure, and research and development to attain a green revolution, which entails a large increase in crop production in developing countries achieved by the use of fertilisers, pesticides, and high-yield crop varieties.
Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya said in an interview on Friday that Government has started undertaking reforms aimed at addressing challenges affecting the sector such as support to farmers to improve crop yields per hectare.
These include increasing extension officers, improved irrigation schemes and mechanisation, citing the construction of a tractor assembly plant by a Polish company in the Lusaka South Multi-facility Economic Zone.
“The ratio is that one extension officer caters for 1,000 farmers, but this is not correct since farmers need to have full access to knowledge, otherwise we will not attain a green revolution.
“Actually, the ministry is seeking treasury authority to reduce this ratio by employing extension officers to impart knowledge to farmers. There is fluctuation in weather and rain patterns and also we are told that soybean is planted when there is enough moisture in the soil, so this is knowledge that farmers should possess if agriculture is to become the anchor of the economy,” she said.
Ms Siliya cited lack of infrastructure in farm blocks which has forced many farmers to shun the blocks despite Government allocating 100,000 hectares per province.
“…But nothing is really happening except in one or two blocks. There is no water, no power and access roads but we have started addressing these challenges. For instance, Zesco has moved in and construction of dams is underway in some farm blocks so that we don’t relegate farming to the rainy season only.
“In fact, we are thinking of designing an ideal agriculture town that should be the model for all farm blocks…We believe that it is time to take a chance on the Zambian farmers who have innovative ideas but lack support,” she said.

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