Editor's Comment

Increased FISP budget to boost agric production

INCREASED budgetary allocation to the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) from K1 billion this year to K3.8 billion is evidence that Government is determined to make agriculture the country’s economic mainstay.
Zambia has for a long time depended on the export of copper as the major source of revenue.
This has not worked well for the country in instances where the price of copper on the global market has plummeted. Additionally, copper is a wasting asset.
For instance the past year, Zambia, like many other copper exporters, suffered serious setbacks when China, the major buyer of copper, slackened in its demand, pushing the Kwacha to its weakest point.
Government has realised that if the country is to grow its economy, diversification is the way to go.
Given Zambia’s good climatic conditions, arable land and abundant water, agriculture is no doubt one sector with a lot of potential.
It is encouraging that Government is alive to this fact and is working to exploit the potential that lies in agriculture, hence increased budgetary allocation to FISP.
The increased budgetary allocation will no doubt help boost agricultural production and push Zambia towards its target of becoming a breadbasket in the region.
According to Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya, Government is targeting to increase cassava production from 800,000 metric tonnes to 1.5 million tonnes next year.
Government also plans to increase maize production from 2.8 metric tonnes last season to 3.5 tonnes.
This is an opportunity for farmers to work extra hard and produce more in this coming season.
Government’s focus for next year is crop diversification and increased productivity.
Farmers will, therefore, do well to diversify into other cash crops other than wholly depending on maize.
Farmers should plan to grow cash crops such as cassava, orange maize, sorghum, millet, soya beans, mixed beans, cotton, groundnuts and rice.
These are high value cash crops which offer a huge potential income source.
Soya bean, for instance, is an important ingredient in stock feeds, and is on high demand.
These crops offer an alternative to maize as they are drought-tolerant and mature early.
Some parts of the country such as Western Province have been prone to drought more than once, thereby causing low maize yields and total crop failure in some instances.
Crop diversification is therefore inevitable if the risk of crop failure is to be minimised.
Farmers in Western Province should therefore take advantage of Government’s target to grow more cassava.
However, to maximize on the benefits of increased funding towards FISP, there is need for Government to look into other aspects key to agricultural productivity such as infrastructure and training.
While Government is already working on road infrastructure, it is important that the agricultural infrastructure master plan for 20 bulk water sites is also implemented in an expeditious manner.
The Zambia National Farmers Union should also work with other stakeholders to provide training for farmers as they diversify to other crops.
Government should also endeavour to provide market information on other cash crops as well as link small-scale farmers to the market both locally and internationally.


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