FRA’s assurance beacon of hope

BY THE end of January this year, it had become clear that Zambia would experience widespread crop failure due to the prolonged dry spell.
And so when President Hakainde Hichilema declared the drought a national disaster on February 29 this year, it did not come as a surprise to citizens. The whole country rallied behind him.
By the beginning of March, 84 of the 116 districts across Zambia’s Central, Copperbelt, Eastern, Lusaka, North-Western, Southern, and Western provinces were affected.
Over a million hectares of maize were affected and over six million people from farming households were put at risk of acute food shortages and in need of urgent humanitarian support. Without urgent support, the situation could easily deteriorate, leading to widespread hunger, malnutrition, and even loss of life.
It is, thus, gratifying that Food Reserve Agency (FRA) has assured of continuous supply of maize to drought-affected areas of the country through strategic relief programmes which are aimed at making maize available to vulnerable households in the affected areas.
FRA’s assurance that it would maintain maize supplies to affected areas through the relief and community sales programme brings hope to thousands of families on the brink of starvation. This commitment is a crucial life-line that will help mitigate the worst effects of the drought and ensure that our most vulnerable citizens do not bear the brunt of the drought.
Maintaining a steady supply of maize to drought-affected areas will provide a vital safety net for families who have been pushed to the edge by the drought.
FRA’s commitment sends a message of hope and solidarity to communities that may feel isolated and abandoned. It speaks to Government’s commitment to supporting vulnerable citizens in their hour of need.
As we applaud the agency’s efforts to provide for as many citizens as possible, we join in its appeal to stakeholders responsible for identifying vulnerable households in the affected areas to ensure that only genuine beneficiaries are listed on the beneficiaries’ lists that are submitted to FRA for the programmes.
It would be sad to have maize intended for starving citizens ending up with undeserving citizens capable of sustaining themselves through this drought and leaving the intended beneficiaries to starve.
The decision by FRA to restrict the sale of maize to only one 50-kilogramme bag of maize per household per month is another commendable measure that will ensure the availability of the commodity to as many citizens as possible.
The restriction of movement of maize from one beneficiary district or identified community location to the other and its decision to work closely with local leaderships, Zambia Police Service and other Government wings are good measures, too, that will go a long way in curbing abuse of this intervention.
Even though FRA’s efforts are well-intended, they must be complemented by a broader, more comprehensive response such as the winter maize-growing project.
This is why we applaud Government’s winter maize programme. The help being rendered to farmers in their winter maize-growing efforts as well as the involvement of some wings of Zambia Defence Forces in the programme will go a long way in ensuring food security for the country long before the next farming season.