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Zambia: Securing Our Food
beninmw | May 20, 2008 at 07:48 pmby
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This fascinating article on the Food Security Pack Programme provides a good case for government to expand the agriculture sector and move Zambia to a position that would guarantee food security. Although Zambia's food production has increased in recent years following those dark periods of the IMF's SAP, Zambia's agricultural industry is now facing renewed threats on top existing structural weaknesses (e.g. higher transport costs given our landlocked position). These new threats include significant power shortages, strengthening of the Kwacha with a potential knock on rural agriculture and of course rising costs of fuel which are adding significant to transport costs. To make matters worse, the government's agricultural policy seems to have lost some bearings of late, culminating a disastrous decision in the recent budget to reduce spending on agriculture. At this critical point in time, when food prices are escalating Zambia has actually reduced spending on agriculture!
Most of these problems (aside from rising oil prices) are within our power to control and more should be done to address them. But I think there also other areas we need to look at as we move forward. As good as the Food Security Pack Programme is, we cannot afford it to be our last stand. I have two additional suggestions where attention also needs to turn.
First, the potential benefits of more mechanized farming should now be explored. With the impending crisis world over, should we not now be asking ourselves seriously whether we are doing enough in Zambia to expand our food basket? I think now is the turn to look to the Brazilians and ask ourselves how they have been able to develop large farms. We have the land just as they do, why can't we put together the same programme in place? I would propose that to partly offset the strengthening of the Kwacha, we must now use the new revenues from mining taxes and pour them into mechanized farming. It must surely be the long term hope for feeding the many hungry mouths in our urban areas. I am confident that the Food Security Pack Programme will deliver what we need in the long term for our rural areas, but I am less confident it will deliver the sort of urgent demand for food that is needed in our urban areas.