GOVERNMENT intends to buy a record one million tonnes of maize and 2,000 tonnes of paddy rice through the Food Reserve Agency this year and no doubt our farmers, especially peasant and small-scale, must be smiling all the way to the bank.
With the price jacked up to K85.00 per 50 kg bag of maize and K60.00 per 40 kg of rice, Zambian farmers can look forward to one of the most successful and profitable buying seasons in a long time.
According to FRA board chairperson Joe Simachela, the buying season started on July 12 and all is set for one of the biggest operations to buy and haul maize from the remotest satellite depots in the country and move it to safety before the onset of the rains. So far 1,223 satellite depots are ready to receive the grain and 6,115 seasonal staff have already been recruited to man these depots.
When we recall that as of now only a few districts in the country have not yet received Compound D fertilizer as part of the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) for the 2016/17 farming season, one can agree that the Government means business when it says it wants to make agriculture the second biggest employer and cash spinner to mining.
Zambia this last season achieved yet another record harvest in the face of one of the harshest weather conditions characterised by the El Nino syndrome; but with careful planning and resilient policies we still managed to harvest enough maize to become not only the envy of our neighbours but the food basket of the region.
It means it is now up to every able-bodied Zambian to grab this rare opportunity where nearly all the countries surrounding Zambia have a food deficit and look to us to supply them with food. We have the fertile soils, all the farming land we need, the right climate and a pro-poor Government to do the right thing.
When President Michael Sata said he was going to put money in people’s pockets, he did not mean the Kwacha would fall from heaven like manna into our pockets. He meant that the Patriotic Front government would provide a conducive environment – like the early distribution of farming inputs – to enable everyone rise from the rocking chair of poverty and idleness and do something for themselves to earn a living.
President Sata’s vision was for every Zambian to be afforded the opportunity to work on the land to grow enough to ensure family food security and sell the surplus. Every woman, youth and disabled person would be involved. In tilling the land there is no vulnerability.
The Government’s responsibility is to ensure the inputs are delivered on time and at the doorstep of the farmer. The surplus maize is bought from a depot not far from the village; the farmer is paid promptly and at the right price. This is what they call empowerment – a matrix of solutions to enable one achieve the goal of eliminating poverty from their home and community.
This is just but one of a package of measures the Government is undertaking to fulfil the promises they made in 2011. The massive road network which enables the fertilizer supplier and the Food Reserve Agency to reach and pay the farmer in the remotest part of Zambia is one of them.
Zambia may not need to launch a back-to-the-land crusade to depopulate our teeming towns, cities and peri-urban areas but it is clear that the Government has provided the right mix of policies, strategies, programmes and projects to enable every able-bodied Zambian to use their heads, hands and talents to earn a living. Farming is one of them.
This is what President Sata called putting money in YOUR pocket.