Editor's Comment

Devise better means of feeding the hungry

THE Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) is racing against time to ensure that food reaches the people who are critically in need.
This follows the poor weather pattern which has seen almost half of the country affected by the dry spell.
As a result of the dry spell, Zambia’s 2019 maize production is expected to reduce by 16 percent to about 2 million tonnes from 2.39 million tonnes last year.
The 2019 crop forecasting survey for the 2018/2019 agriculture season shows that maize production is expected to decrease to 2,004,389 metric tonnes from 2,394,907 metric tonnes produced last season.
Parts of Central, Lusaka and Muchinga provinces received below-normal rains with Southern and Western provinces being the most hit.
Some parts of Eastern Province were not spared.
The hunger situation has meant that Government has to take up the responsibility of feeding citizens who are on the verge of starving.
The DMMU says it has so far distributed 7,800 metric tonnes of maize to over 50 districts since the rainy season started.
The task of distributing relief food in a vast country such as ours is not easy. Districts such as Gwembe, Sinazongwe in the Southern Province and Itezhi Tezhi and Luano in Central Province, which are in dire need of food, have extremely challenging terrain.
While the maize to be taken to such areas may be there, it is a challenge to deliver it to the remotest parts of these districts.
Transporters should be sensitised on the importance of this noble task. It is a life-saving venture.
There should be a mechanism for monitoring the movement of trucks and other vessels being used in the distribution of relief food.
District administrators, civic leaders, Members of Parliament, the Church and traditional authorities should be consulted and involved in this task so that every deserving household receives their share.
The DMMU should, therefore, fall back on the wisdom of the clergy, civic and traditional leaders in such areas.
Therefore, data collectors who have been dispatched to these areas to assess the hunger situation in the affected areas should know on which doors to knock.
Data collectors have a premium to provide accurate information so that Government can intervene accordingly.
We also hope that the DMMU has recruited data collectors from the affected areas because it would be easier to interact with local communities.
Beyond this data collection on hunger, we hope that DMMU has trained this team to speak to farmers on the need to embrace modern farming methods.
Most of our small-scale farmers are still practising old methods of agriculture and practising mono-cropping.
Time for mono-cropping is long gone.
Our farmers should move with time by embracing multi-cropping as well as keeping animals such as goats, sheep and cattle.
There is also need for our subsistence farmers to switch to early-maturing varieties which should help them harvest something in the event of short rainy seasons.
The 2018-2019 rainy season is a wake-up call that climate change is real. The country, through the DMMU, ministries of Agriculture and Livestock, should escalate adaptation and mitigation efforts.
DMMU should be proactive in dealing with disasters in the country.
It can no longer be business as usual because the situation may get worse.
Time is now to reduce charcoal harvesting, especially protecting water catchment areas, to save the remaining rivers and streams.
Time to adapt and mitigate is now.

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