Editor's Comment

Defence forces can kill poverty

AGRICULTURE has received high priority from the government of Zambia as it seeks to diversify the country's economy.

ARMED forces are, traditionally, institutions established for the primary purpose of national defence against external threats and internal conflicts.In their vigorous training, defence personnel are equipped with skills on how to defend the citizenry, including killing.
In other words, armed personnel are trained to kill any enemy that poses danger to the country and its citizenry.
While our armed forces stand ready to demonstrate these skills, there have been no physical threats to warrant such action.
This is mainly because the country has been blessed with peace for over five decades of its existence.
For all these decades, the country has harmoniously co-existed with its neighbours and internally.
Thankfully, although the armed forces have not been called to arms for major operations, it is heartening that they are regularly relied upon for operations that are ordinarily not for the military.
The men and women in uniform are now fairly regularly being assigned to exert their energies to socio-economic and health enemies such as poverty, unemployment and disease.
Minister of Defence Davis Chama recently said the defence force has embarked on a countrywide promotion of agriculture to fight hunger, disease and unemployment.
The minister said in the absence of war, the Zambian Army, Zambia Air Force (ZAF) and Zambia National Service (ZNS) are waging internal war against hunger, disease and unemployment.
“In the military, we have qualified manpower and have intelligence to think outside the box. The defence force is trained to kill and currently the enemies are hunger, poverty, diseases and unemployment,” he said.
Considering the callousness with which poverty, unemployment and diseases strip citizens of dignity and humans rights, it is certain that Zambia cannot focus on only possible external enemies. The country has enemies within.
The real enemy of unemployment and poverty, for instance, denies citizens basic necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, education, health services and consequently dignity and life.
For instance, it is common knowledge that there are people in this world who were sent to an early grave due to distress, poor nutrition and failure to access health services.
It is therefore commendable that the defence force, under the chief command of President Edgar Lungu, is alert to these subtle enemies and silent killers of our time.
While the conventional war is fought using weapons such as guns, the defence force is using its human capital, machinery and arable land to fight poverty and unemployment.
While ZNS is known to have launched this war years back through its vibrant agricultural activities, the Zambia Army and ZAF also joined the ‘battle’ recently.
As a result, defence force personnel in every province are now engaging in agriculture to increase food production, while fighting diseases and creating jobs.
Given the qualified and abundant manpower in the defence force, it is indisputable that they have a greater role to play in delivering victory against unemployment and poverty in the country.
Zambia has 42 million hectares of arable land, but only two million are currently being used for agricultural activities. This means 40 million hectares of land are lying idle waiting to be exploited.
With such abundant arable land, the armed force has no excuse but to fulfil President Lungu’s vision to revolutionise agriculture and subsequently end poverty, unemployment and disease.
Through increased agricultural production, the defence forces will not only enhance food security but the gross domestic product as well.
Actually in other countries like Turkey and Ethiopia, the military is a major contributor to GDP and economic growth through manufacturing and other such ventures.
Certainly, the Zambian defence force is equal to the task before them – to “kill” poverty, unemployment and disease.

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