Govt lacks political will to make agriculture economic mainstay – WWF

The World-Wide Fund for Nature WWF has observed that the Patriotic Front government lacks political will to diversify from dependency on mining to agriculture.

Speaking during a workshop in Lusaka, Thursday, WWF Zambia Policy and Advocacy coordinator Bwendo Kabanda said government’s failure to prioritize research and extension programs in the agricultural sector is a sign that there is no focus to develop the sector.

“We are trying to address issues of climate change through conservation agriculture. And we are also looking ta what challenges the agricultural sector has in Zambia. From production at small scale farmer level, the issues of processing, marketing, policy level, government involvement. So, we look at everything and we are trying to tackle the entire quinetum. The fact that the adoption rates are very low, it’s an issue of concern. Why is it that they are very low when everyone including farmers are saying that its good, it’s long term, its environmentally friendly and its socially acceptable? So, something that is economical, socially acceptable and has economically low input, why shouldn’t it be accepted? Why are the adoption rates still low? So, some of the issues we have been discussing include the issues of lack of support from government in terms of budget, there is no, in their agricultural budget, there is no specific budget that promotes Conservation Agriculture, or research and extension programs,” Kabanda said.

“They will talk about going to extension. There is very little money going to research and extension. We should be talking about the issues of technology including promotion of things like conservation agriculture practices. Over 80 percent of the budget goes to the Food Reserve Agency and the Farmers Input Support Program, and then the 20 percent that remains, 90 percent of it goes to personal emoluments and salaries. Then the 10 percent is what is divided into research, extension, into infrastructure development. Where are you going to develop? So, we are saying if the policy is there. Because government has for a long time wanted to prioritize conservation agriculture, they wanted farmers to do this between 2009 and 2015. So, if the policy is there, why can’t government pump money to support this? Because there is intention from government. So that is one. Government is reluctant to prioritize research and support the adoption of conservation agriculture. Without that, we can’t grow the agricultural sector.”

He said Zambia could easily diversify into the agricultural sector within five years if government would strategically prioritize the agenda.

“Then there is no link between science and extension, we have challenges of mixed messages from the promoters, so we need to harmonies and coordinate our effort together. I’m telling you it can’t even take long to diversify if there is political will. There was political will in the establishment of the FISP program and if government willfully plan to diversify, they can do so. I’m telling you it can even take five years to diversify. If for example government says we are going to be putting, more money in Climate smart agriculture beyond what the FISP is currently doing, everybody will actually accept it within two or three seasons. People would be rushing to the new policies by government, the private sector would be willing to support CA promoters would support as well and people mindset would change. We have poor farmers in the country, so they would go for anything that is a law hanging from in terms of financing in the area. And FISP is one of those things, we asked some farmer why they get FISP when they think its not a good program and contributes to infertility within farming areas and is impacting really negatively and the answer was interesting. They said why should we be left out from sharing the national cake? So that why people get the fertilizer only to sell,” said Kabanda.

         

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