Vice President Dr Guy Scott says Zambian farmers need to change their attitude towards agriculture if the sector is to reach its full potential. Dr Scott observed that most farmers in Zambia treat agriculture as a hobby.
He said the amateurish attitude that most Zambian farmers have towards agriculture need to change if the sector is to be viable.
Dr Scott was speaking in Lusaka when he officiated at a one day High Level Policy Forum on agriculture in Lusaka organised by a consortium of NGO under the theme “Revitalising Agriculture in Zambia towards the 2024 AU Year of Agriculture- “Changing the way we do Agric in Zambia.
“In Zambia we have something similar to the Dutch disease, in fact Kenneth Kaunda didn’t understand economics and I don’t think he still understands economics but he had a good instinct about something and he said am afraid we are cursed because we were born with a copper spoon in our mouth and that destroyed the rest of the economy and I think he had a point.”
Dr Scott also received the “Do Agric” petition calling for increased investments in agriculture.
Dr Scott and Simuusa join other African leaders such as Presidents Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Yayi Boni of Benin in receiving this petition.
The petition is a product of the Do Agric campaign, pan-African initiative led by ONE.org launched in January 2014 to support 2014, AU Year of Agriculture have new commitment that can have end poverty and hunger in Africa.
Dr Scott said Zambia has been discussing economic diversification from mining to other sectors such as agriculture with little success.
“We need to stop reinventing the wheel, we’ve had, I don’t know how many hundreds of projects, NGO driven the projects, Government’s own initiatives aimed at this or that in agriculture and our performance has been below that of our neighbouring countries and a lot of this is due to what they call the Dutch disease,” Dr Scott said.
He added, “In Zambia we have something similar to the Dutch disease, in fact Kenneth Kaunda didn’t understand economics and I don’t think he still understands economics but he had a good instinct about something and he said am afraid we are cursed because we were born with a copper spoon in our mouth and that destroyed the rest of the economy and I think he had a point.”
Dr Scott lamented: “We don’t think business is like agriculture, we don’t say we have to make money out of it. We must export it, we must grow it if its profitable and not if its unprofitable, we just think agriculture is some kind of hobby we do if we are not mining copper. We grow something and we say am a farmer and that curse of Zambia has not gone away yet despite the fact that we’ve spent many years with copper prices so low and we still ant do agriculture variably.”
And Agriculture Minister Wilbur Simuusa committed to working with civil society towards creating an agriculture investment and reform framework that benefits small holder farmers and small to medium sized agri-businesses in Zambia.
“During the year of agriculture, we need to put our money where our mouth is, our government will ensure the same rate of increase in the budget until we meet and exceed the Maputo target of 10%. We want to ensure that the current 7% allocated towards agriculture boosts both production and processing agricultural activities for Zambia to realise the multiplier effect on,” he said.
And Deputy Director for ONE Africa Nachilala Nkombo said it is important for Africa’s leaders to heed the call of the more than 2 million Africans who have signed the petition particularly on closing the gender gap in agriculture.
“These African citizens have come forward telling their leaders to Do Agric because they know that Africa will not succeed in eliminating extreme poverty and hunger if the majority of small holder farmers are not empowerment with modern technologies, cutting edge training and market intelligence systems they need to thrive, she remarked”.
She added, “Lets ensure equal access to productive assets and resources for women and youth will be central in any African governments winning tragedy to cut poverty and create millions of jobs.”
At the same event, CSO-SUN Alliance National Coordinator William Chilufya observed that although Zambia has over the past years achieved food security with regard to staple cereal, achieving food and nutrition security as recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organization and other international agencies still remains a challenge to the government.
Mr Chilufya said the reality is that malnutrition is one of the greatest challenges facing Zambia today.
“Currently, nearly one in every two children in Zambia is stunted or small for their age. In fact, Zambia has one of the highest rates of stunting in children under five years old in the world. At 45.8%, higher than the 42% average rate for Africa, Zambia’s rate of child stunting remains higher than the vast majority of its neighbouring countries,” he said.
He added, “The high levels of Malnutrition in Zambia create an urgent call to ensure that investment in agriculture becomes a core part of the solution and a preventive strategy by ensuring food is affordable and diverse.”
Mr Chilufya said to do this, Zambia needs to reform existing Agriculture plans to increase their impact on Nutrition by encouraging diversity in food production that is aimed at improving the nutritional outcome of the population through maximizing the positive impact of food and agricultural systems on nutrition.