SPORADIC rainfall patterns which have characterised the past two farming seasons should be an eye-opener to farmers and technocrats in the agriculture sector to embark on diversification because reliance on maize has proved to be a disaster for Zambian farmers, Chief Sipatunyana of Kalomo district has observed.
Speaking to the Daily Nation yesterday, the traditional leader called on officers in the Ministry of Agriculture to spend more time sensitizing farmers on the need to grow a variety of drought-resistant crops in order to cushion low yields in an event that maize failed due to lack of adequate rains.
He said the rainfall patterns in the past two seasons were not favourable to growing maize which was less resistant to drought compared to other crops such as beans, millet and sorghum.
Chief Sipatunyana said crops such as beans, millet and sorghum were not only drought resistant, but had better economic value than maize which most Zambian farmers had monopolised.
“What is happening in the country is sad because most farmers do not want to grow any other crops other than maize and this is disadvantaging the agriculture sector because it becomes a disaster each time maize fails as a result of poor rains.
“We cannot continue to rely on maize anymore and that is why we need more sensitization on diversification from the Ministry of Agriculture if our farmers are to change their mind-set against reliance on maize in order to produce a variety of crops,” he said.
Chief Sipatunyana said as long as farmers continued with the monopoly of maize production, the country would continue to record poor harvests due to climate change which had adversely affected the rainfall pattern.
“Maize has continued to let us down as farmers yet we don’t seem to learn and we have continued clinging to the crop every year even when there are crops which do not need a lot of rains such as beans, sorghum and millet which are also cash crops. Some of these crops that farmers are shunning have better economic value compared to maize,” the traditional leader said.
He also observed that there was need for traditional leaders to take a leading role in sensitizing their subjects on best options available for them in the agriculture sector.
Chief Sipatunyana also bemoaned the lack of agriculture camp officers in some parts of his chiefdom which he said had robbed his subjects of valuable agriculture education.
“I will embark on sensitizing the farmers soon so that they learn to do things properly in an event that nature fails them. I have also indicated to the camp officers in my chiefdom to ensure that they talk to our farmers but the problem I have is that such officers are not there in some parts of my chiefdom and so information flow is limited,” he said.
Meanwhile, the chief has welcomed President Edgar Lungu’s move to raise the maize floor price from the initial K70 per 50 kilogram bag to K75 in this marketing season.
He said the slight upward adjustment would help farmers get value for their produce.
Chief Sipatunyana however said the price of the commodity was still low as the cost of production among farmers was too high.