Party of National Unity (PNU) president Highvie Hamududu has challenged Ministry of Agriculture Dora Siliya to stop making policy pronouncements from her air-conditioned office and get on the ground to meet the farmers.

And Hamududu has asked government to introduce performance contracts for extension officers in order to improve on how extension services can contribute to the diversification of the agricultural sector.

Meanwhile, the opposition leader says there was nothing wrong with the e-voucher system, but demanded for the early release of funds.

Hamududu told News Diggers in an interview yesterday that the challenges facing the agricultural sector was government’s fault because it did not deliver farming inputs on time.

“The problem of agriculture actually started from Mulungushi House at the headquarters in Lusaka, the extension services have died. These services must come back to life and must be put on performance contracts so that we can see how the extension officers are diversifying agriculture through demonstration in the rural areas. What they need is to demonstrate by introducing new crops and teaching practical things to the farmers. Farmers must be taught practically, the minister [of agriculture] must not issue statements while sitting in those air-conditioned offices, let them come and wear overalls and go in those rural areas to the farmers and demonstrate,” Hamududu said.

The Ministry of Agriculture is busy employing extension officers without putting performance contracts, the extension officers are completely failing because there are no thresholds that are given to them to perform on the ground. I am here in Monze right now and there is no practical demonstration happening right here among the farmers. Even with this severe drought which has been going on for over one and half months, farmers could have at least survived even through one crop. So this issue of over dependence on maize that you see around the country was forced by government through the farmer input support programme where they were pushing for fertiliser and seed by government.”

He said there was nothing wrong with the e-voucher apart from the late release of fund supporting the programme.

So the e-voucher which must be supported by being funded early, what happened this season again? The government took long to release money for the e-voucher and that’s where the problem is now. There is no problem with e-voucher but the problem is with release of funds to the e-voucher. Truth must be told, the release of money to support e-voucher was late and that’s why there is chaos. Secondly, the extension services are dead. Extension officers must use motor bikes, why is government buying vehicles for extension officers? Field officers must use motorbikes so that the money can go to demonstration,” said Hamududu.

“When you put money somewhere, there must be demand for a result. So those people who are talking there seated in air-conditioned offices must move out and wear overalls, people are wearing suits in the rainy season, how can you wear a white shirt and tie during the rainy season and call yourself as someone who works for Ministry of Agriculture, what agriculture? Are you a magistrate? Please stop joking. The only party which addressed agriculture in this country is UNIP and if we are not careful, all of us will have to go back to UNIP.”