Fred M’membe, President of the Socialist Party, has called for urgent action to address the looming food and nutrition crisis in Luapula, Northern, and Muchinga Provinces in Zambia.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Dr M’membe narrated that a devastating disease known as brown streak is destroying cassava crops in Luapula, Northern, and Muchinga provinces in Zambia, leaving the population vulnerable to hunger. Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is a serious threat to food security in these provinces, as it destroys both the leaves and roots of the cassava plant. Cassava is the second most economically important crop in Zambia and is grown in several provinces, including Luapula, Northern, Muchinga, North-Western, and Western provinces. It is also grown in parts of Lusaka and Central provinces. Approximately 30% of the population in Zambia depends on cassava as a staple crop and source of income.
The first incidences of CBSD were reported in the northern districts of Chienge (Luapula Province) and Kaputa (Northern Province) more than five years ago, but very little has been done to curb its spread. Cassava is a drought-resistant crop that can withstand floods, making it an important source of food in times of climate change, which has affected cereal crops. The outbreak of CBSD should be taken seriously and addressed with coordinated, collective action to prevent a food and nutrition crisis in these provinces.
Luapula, with a poverty rate of 81.1%, is the second poorest province in Zambia. The failure of the cassava crop will only further exacerbate the already dire situation in this province, leading to increased malnutrition and child mortality. The poverty rates in Northern and Muchinga provinces are also high, at 79.7% and 69.3%, respectively. These provinces will also be severely impacted by the cassava crop failure.
To address this crisis, emergency measures are needed to support the population in Luapula, Northern, and Muchinga provinces. Longer-term action is also necessary to create more sustainable agri-food systems. One potential solution is breeding cassava varieties that are resistant to CBSD, which could help curb the spread of the disease and increase food security in these provinces.
It is crucial that this issue is addressed with the seriousness it deserves to prevent further suffering and malnutrition in these already impoverished areas, his statement concluded.