Climate change is real.
We can hope for the best but must also prepare for the worst because, not even the most advanced computer programmes can predict the effect of el Niño, which has caused widespread devastation through drought and tempestuous weather.
The Bauleni disaster in which one woman was killed and many houses destroyed gave us an early warning of what to expect. The down pour was heavy, ferocious and totally alien. Such is what can be expected in the weather pattern which is unlikely to settle for many years to come, if at all. The Government must begin to work with all communities to make the best use of our water resources.
There is no doubt that we can expect erratic rainfall, flash floods and long dry spells. These are the conditions we must prepare for.
Our colleagues in Zimbabwe and South Africa have suffered severe disruption because of weather changes to the extent that Zimbabwe has been importing maize, South Africa is also importing while livestock has been decimated.
Climate experts have established that Southern Africa is experiencing one of the most severe droughts seen in the last 20years, resulting in extensive damage to agriculture and livestock. The Red Meat Producers Organization (RMPO) has disclosed that up to more than 40,000 cattle died from thirst and hunger.
We cannot remain complacent to this reality.
Firstly drought resistant varieties must be planted in all the traditional dry areas including Southern Province. Scientific research has produced varieties that will withstand very harsh conditions.
If we are to err, it is better that we do so on the side of caution that will give us a yield than lose all by planting our normal hybrids that take up to three months of rainfall to mature.
From our bumper harvest a lot more must be retained to provide relief to areas that are likely to suffer deficit. Again it is better we have a reserve to fall on than import relief supplies that will stretch the treasury even further.
More importantly however, the Government must work with the private sector to utilize the huge water bodies that God has so richly endowed us with.
Luapula must become the new agriculture center of the country where huge irrigated estates will grow sugar cane, maize and other crops which can be exported to gain the much needed foreign exchange.
It is a fact that our non-traditional exports earned this country much more than copper ever could, but the scheme that incorporated Zambia Export Growers was sidelined and eventually died a natural death. Time has come to resurrect the institution and bring it to full capacity to help save the economy.
What the country now needs is a well-planned programme of diversification that will involve all sectors of society, more particularly the peasantry who must be weaned off maize into more productive cash crops.