ZNFU, ZSIC to assess crop failure in eastern districts

Maize field farm.

A TEAM from Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) and ZSIC Limited has been sent to Petauke and Katete to assess the looming crop failure due to prolonged dry spells in the districts.
This follows the partnership between ZNFU and ZSIC Limited to conduct crop assessments to ascertain the extent of crop damage with farmers under the Lima Credit Scheme (LCS).
Over 300 farmers in Petauke and Katete have been affected by bad weather this year.
“ZSIC Limited is one of the partners on the LCS which is offering the insurance part of the scheme. Preliminary assessment conducted by ZNFU regional and district staff, reveals the reality of the situation on the ground as dire,” according to the ZNFU Friday brief.
Meanwhile, the union has partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in Chavuma to train farmers in agribusiness management for several co-operatives in the district.
Chavuma district agricultural co-ordinator Peter Maseka said the trainings will be done almost every quarter.
Mr Maseka also urged farmers to graduate from farmers input support programme dependency and embrace viable and robust programmes like the ZNFU lead LCS and other services.
In Southern Province, the union has started a beef production and marketing study in Choma to investigate the true picture of the beef production and marketing value chain in Zambia and the effects of beef imports on the local market.
The union says small-scale and commercial beef farmers are represented in focus groups bringing out issues of beef production, processing and marketing in Zambia.
“Farmers could not hide the fact that their business was being threatened by lack of clear policies for the beef and agriculture industry in general,” the statement reads.
Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says the Conservation Agriculture Project Scaling Up (CASU) project if properly applied can increase crop resilience in times of drought.
The CASU project is a European Union funded programme being implemented in 31 districts in Zambia.
The project’s goal is to contribute to reduced hunger, improved food security, nutrition and income while promoting sustainable use of natural resources in the country by 2017.
According to a statement availed to the Daily Mail, FAO has observed through  the project beneficiaries in Southern Province that even during the dry spell period, conservation agriculture can thrive under the dry spell and still help farmers produce good yields.
The Meteorological Department under the Ministry of Communications and Transport recorded below normal rainfall for most districts in the province from July 1, 2014 to February 20, 2015.
It, however, says CASU farmers’ fields in the province are thriving under increased soil moisture deficits conditions.
Commenting on the development, Meteorological department acting director Oversease Mwangase confirmed that Southern Province received significantly below normal rainfall due to the weak El Niño being experienced in the country.
El Niño is an irregularly occurring and complex series of climatic changes affecting the equatorial Pacific region and beyond every few years, characterised by the appearance of unusually warm, nutrient-poor water off northern Peru and Ecuador, typically in late December.
“The weak El Niño has caused the province to receive between 30-40 percent less rainfall than under normal circumstances,” he said.
Sharing the same sentiments, a lead farmer in Monze Child Mwanamuchende was happy adopting conservation agriculture on his farm, saying that this has made the crops to grow well even in the midst of dry spells.
“I am sure my friends and neighbours will apply the principles in the next agricultural season. My field is showing the benefits of CA through the use of planting basins and rip lines compared to the conventional land tillage techniques,” he said.

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