Analysis: NATHAN MULENGA
FOLLOWING Government’s directive that agriculture becomes the main driver of Zambia’s economy apart from mining, we in the Zambia National Service (ZNS) have made positive strides towards actualising the pronouncement.
The year 2017 has been very progressive for the ZNS as we have been able to meet most of the production benchmarks we had set for ourselves in the 2016/2017 farming season.
During the 2015/2016 farming season, the ZNS produced 1,300 hectares of white maize with a projection to increase to 2,000 hectares in the 2016/2017 farming season. However, we managed to cultivate 2,280 hectares of white maize thereby exceeding our target by 280 hectares for the 2016/2017 season.
In terms of yield, we harvested and sold a total of 153,893 50kg bags of maize in our units countrywide. That in itself is an encouraging increase in our production of the staple food – maize.
The ZNS shall continue to grow maize alongside high value crops even when other farmers opt to concentrate on growing crops that will only yield them maximum profits.
We have an obligation to ensure the country remains food secure as far as the availability of the staple food is concerned.
In the area of high-value crops, I am happy to report that during the 2016/2017 season, the ZNS produced close to 40,000 50kg bags of wheat and 5,500 50kg bags of soya beans. The robust production expansion drive we have adopted of the high value crops is aimed at aligning our production activities with Government’s crop diversification programme.
The growing of high value crops is also intended to help in making up for any losses which may be incurred in the event that the maize crop failed due to unfavourable weather conditions or any other unforeseen market forces.
For the service to sustain its agricultural production activities, there has been deliberate efforts by Government to procure some hi-tech production equipment in the last one year.
The service has also been committing some of its internally generated resources towards supplementing these efforts. Through Government’s support, we have managed to procure 59 tractors of various horse powers together with their implements, eight combine harvesters and a number of cob pickers.
These have since been distributed to various units to enhance their production capabilities.
With the increase in our production levels, we are looking forward to starting value addition to the agricultural products
In that regard, I want to report that considerable progress has been made towards the establishment of five industrial milling plants in selected areas.
So far, feasibility studies have been completed in Mpika and Monze districts.
Once these milling plants are established, the maize and wheat that our units are producing shall be milled into mealie-meal and flour to be availed to the members of the public at affordable prices. This will go a long way in assisting Government to stabilise prices of the staple food and bread on the market.
The milling plants are also expected to offer a ready market to the small-scale farmers in the areas within which they will be located as these farmers will be able to sell their maize directly to the ZNS-run milling plants at competitive prices.
In the area of road infrastructure development, I am happy to report that considerable progress has been made countrywide. However, there is need for Government to consider procuring additional pieces of earth moving equipment to beef up the existing fleet as the demand to open up our rural areas to enable our people to access basic necessities like education and health is quite high.
The procurement of more equipment will therefore not only make it possible for the service to timely complete the construction of the rural roads but will also make the lives of our people in the peri-urban, rural and remote areas bearable.
I know that the subject of empowering the youths with survival skills has been a matter of priority for Government.
This can be evidenced by the recent inspection tour that President Edgar Lungu undertook to ZNS Chishimba youth training centre in Kasama to have an on-the-spot check of the facility. The training centre is at 90 percent completion stage and can take on an intake once the Ministry of Youth and Sports decides to undertake a recruitment exercise.
As a service, we stand ready to assist Government to transform more youths into productive citizens by imparting the necessary life-sustaining skills to enable more young people be self-reliant and not look up to Government for white-collar jobs which may not be adequate for all.
To servicemen and women, so much has been said about who we are about being non-partisan and the meaning of the uniform we wear. I do not wish to reinvent the wheel. I must state that the authority, the power you seem to carry, is not yours but for the Zambian people. Don’t abuse it, desist from the temptation of being used by certain groups of people, either local or foreign, for inimical intentions against Zambia.
Let us stand united as one and never to allow pettiness to divide us.
I want to liken ourselves to one vital organ of our body, the liver. If it chooses not to support the kidney, the kidney will certainly fail. But unknown to the liver, it too will have a backlash of its own actions and before long will fail and in no time sudden multiple organ failure will occur leading to ultimate death of the entire body.
Let it not happen. Pettiness shouldn’t be allowed to form part of the service. Inculcate oneness, love, kindness, peace, mutual respect and integrity.
The author is Zambia National Service commandant.