People’s Alliance for Change (PAC) president Andyford Banda says the agriculture sector in Zambia is in shambles because of lack of adequate investment from both government and the private sector.

And Banda said the current farmer input distribution system is fraught with corruption making many farmers vulnerable.

In his weekly newsletter to News Diggers, Banda further stated that the current government has lacked direction and political will to diversify and make agriculture the mainstay of the country’s economy.

“The agriculture sector in Zambia is in shambles. To start with, the mining sector has predominantly been the bread and butter of the Zambian economy. This is despite the immerse potential that is presented by the agriculture to create more jobs than the mining ever could. To be able to realise the potential of agriculture, diversification is key. Unfortunately, the diversification agenda has just been a matter of lip service by successive governments. They have clearly lacked direction and political will to diversify and make agriculture the mainstay of our economy. Apart from lacking adequate investment from both the government and private sector, the sector has also lacked modern techniques to help farmers produce a variety of crops and to ensure that they are enough silos and warehouses to keep crops ready for market. The government has not put in place effective and practical policies to attract Zambians and other foreign investors to invest in the sector,” Banda said.

He stated that if the PF was a thinking government, it wouldn’t have invested so much resources in moribund projects at the expense of the agriculture sector.

“If the PF government was a thinking government, the loans they wasted in investing in moribund projects such as the Railways system and by constructing some unnecessary roads to gain political mileage could first have been invested in the agriculture sector, where value could have been created for Zambia Railways and other road networks. If the PF leadership really love this country, the loans we are crying about today, could have made Zambia the economic powerhouse of Central and Southern Africa. Indeed the PF government has been limited in their thinking and hence we are here today,” Banda stated.

Banda noted that the farmer input distribution system was fraught with corruption.

“The distribution system has been fraught with corruption against the backdrop of the lack of an effective modern system that can improve service delivery to the farmers. Most farmers have remained poor living on a hand-to-mouth basis and only surviving on a staple crop that they harvest once yearly. Farmers have faced numerous challenges due to delays in delivering of farming inputs and delays in paying them. As we plan to implement our new plans, most of these outstanding issues must be sorted out. Some of these systems have been in place since the colonial days. We need to start changing systems and bring in systems that will speed up all these processes. Therefore, we must have reforms and change of systems to adapt to the times we are living in,” he stated.

Banda stated that his government would change the attitude of Zambians towards farming.

“PAC will ensure that as many farmers as possible access equipment loans to boost production. This will help in having mass production and reduce the cost of food in the country. The PAC government will also work with Zambians to change our attitude towards farming, because we must get as many Zambians as possible to get into farming. Farming should not be seen as requiring a big piece of land in order for it to take place. We must get our people to see that even having a small piece of land somewhere can still do. The PAC government will empower small farmers to venture into farming products that do not need heavy machinery or huge land such as tomatoes, vegetables and other forms of horticulture. We will give such farmers borehole loans so that farming does not only depend on the rain season but can be done throughout the year. Most of these crops will be for a targeted market in the region and beyond,” he stated.

He stated the need to encourage and empower youth to form agriculture cooperatives and make Africa a food basket.

“Without focusing our energies on mass production and looking for export markets, we are doomed. And our focus has been exporting to Europe, America and other countries outside Africa where the market is not even readily available and yet our brothers and sisters in Africa are struggling to get cheap food. Therefore, our energies must focus on Africa. The question we should be asking should be around investigating which countries we can export to and what we can export. We can encourage the youth to form agriculture cooperatives and empower them to focus on that line. We can give them land and equipment, provided we assure them of a market. We can export maize to our neighbours like in Angola, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. Successive governments have not taken advantage of this situation by opening up new markets for farmers or by signing trade agreements with these countries. Appropriate policies that can attract investors to fund the agriculture sector have not been drafted and crop diversification to suit these markets is still not yet a reality. Despite most African countries lacking food, successive governments have been focusing their attention to open opportunities for farmers in markets too difficult to attain,” Banda stated.

He stated that the PAC government would restructure the tax regime as regards to Agriculture in order to encourage financiers to invest for the purposes of exporting to other countries.

“Further, PAC shall ensure that the corruption associated with export is dealt with. An example of this is in the maize and mealie meal export that is dominated by those with influence. A country’s agricultural sector cannot progress with such a mentality. PAC will put an end to these problems that have dogged us for years. PAC will put the pride back into farming. PAC is the answer to our farmers,” stated Banda.