Editor's Comment

Actualise potential now

PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu using a combine harvester at Wisdom Mababe’s farm in Mumbwa, Central Province, during the National Harvest Day yesterday. PICTURE: SALIM HENRY/STATE HOUSE

FOR a long time now, Zambia has been bragging about the natural resources endowment the country has.
The natural resources include minerals, forests – which host all manner of timber species, including mukula, water – with hundreds of species of fish, wild animals and birds of the air.
Zambia is also blessed with a favourable climate and a stable political environment to stimulate economic development.
Similarly, the country has also maintained the chorus about having huge potential to excel in every sector.
The endowment story and the potential chorus continuing 54 years after independence, rather than giving hope, is now becoming an irritant.
That is why during yesterday’s national harvest day at Wisdom Mababe’s farm in Chief Kaindu’s area in Mumbwa, President Edgar Lungu demanded that Zambia steps out of this rhetoric and begin to actualise the potentials, including that of being able to feed Africa.
President Lungu wondered for how long Zambia is going to be talking about this potential?
Indeed, there is need to take pragmatic action to actualise this hyped potential and the time to do that is now.
Zambians just have to do it for the good of the country.
Apart from the desire to feed the continent, there is no need for Zambia to experience hunger or to be threatened by it. Lack of food should never threaten Zambia even when there is poor rainfall as experienced in some parts of the country in the 2018-2019 season.
Parts of the country that endure dry spells should be adequately compensated in regions with good harvest.
President Lungu has thrown a challenge to his technocrats to ensure that the rhetoric on Zambia’s potential should be a thing of the past.
From today, the country should start working towards unlocking the potential that Zambia has in agriculture.
The President’s observation requires a total paradigm shift in policy that will place deliberate emphasis on Government supporting farmers at both micro and macro level with incentives that are sustainable and predictable.
Financial institutions and other support systems must be compelled by law to support this policy while also ensuring that there is a market with commercial viability for the farmers to offload their produce.
Government, like it has done with other sectors like tourism, must have an agriculture levy, whose amounts raised must be channeled to the sustainability of the farmers.
The country should also work towards reducing the cost of farm implements by giving incentives to those that wish to venture into farming.
Zambians should also take advantage of availability of good soils and water for irrigation by growing crops, according to regions.
Zambia holds 40 percent of the water resources in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
While other countries in the SADC just have one or two rivers, Zambia has a number of perennial water bodies that are key for improved agriculture productivity.
In fact, the country should be looking at building multi-purpose dams as opposed to single use to maximise their utilisation for agriculture and hydro power, where need be.
Through the farm unions, the country should be able to identify farmers who should be exporting and assisting them with technical and material or financial support.
In fact, value addition to the various farm produce, including minerals, will see Zambia translating the potential into actualisation.
Why should the country continue exporting raw materials, which in turn come back as finished products?
The raw materials exported to other countries create jobs along the value addition chain while the country of origin continues to grapple with high unemployment levels.
Time to move from potential to actualisation of the country’s endowment in everything is now.

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