THE Vice-President’s office has revealed plans to establish a ‘National Disaster Fund’ to finance catastrophe response programmes of the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit.

Meanwhile, Small Scale Farmers Development Agency (SAFADA) director Boyd Moobwe says government should not deny the fact that Zambia will be hunger-stricken this year following a dry spell that characterized the 2017/2018 farming season.

Responding to a question from Mongu Central Member of Parliament Mwilola Imakando who wanted to know whether the DMMU had planned to decentralize funding, Minister in the office of the Vice-President Sylvia Chalikosa said government would decentralize funding after establishing a National Disaster Fund.

“The Unit is also dependent on the Treasury, and the only difference is that when a disaster strikes, the Treasury tends to respond a bit quicker than normal operations. However, when there is a challenge with the Treasury, DMMU does try to look elsewhere in order to attend to that disaster. For instance, if it’s something involving roofing sheets, we are looking at probably engaging suppliers so that we can get those roofing sheets on credit for instance, and pay for those roofing sheets later. So we do respond within the capacity that we have at the time the disaster occurs and it is regrettable that some of these cases have gone beyond three, four years. However, we have compiled the data and I will come back with a substantive statement on how we intend to deal with damaged infrastructure,”Chalikosa said.

“At the moment, we are thinking of establishing only a National Disaster Fund. We have not yet looked at decentralization to the provinces, but it is certainly something we can look at depending on the capacity of the National Treasury.”

Meanwhile, Moobwe said assertions that there would be enough food this year were untrue.

“Despite the fact that there are comments from other stakeholders that there is enough food, they are not true. But According to us as SAFADA, we are in the field, we see what is happening. We had a documentary with ZNBC to see how the crops have been destroyed. So, of course in the near future, we will see some hunger situation especially in rural areas, because we had drought and now we have these rains. So meaning that we won’t have enough stock for families for their food security. Their food security is at stake, is affected. So what we are asking government is to come up with a programme, deliberate policies that will engage farmers so that they engage in other farming activities, ” Moobwe said. “We are disadvantaged because we depend on one crop. We need to learn to market other crops, these other crops have bigger markets in some countries. Crops such as cassava, millet, sorghum. Now because maize is the main source of our staple food, we will have hunger because maize all over the country didn’t do well. So, what we ask the government to do is to create programmes. For instance, at the moment, we have got a programme that we are running, we are trying to engage farmers into irrigation techniques so that they don’t suffer. Instead of depending on cereal driven machinery, why don’t we go towards improving on our irrigation systems?”

He said government should physically monitor the situation on the ground.

“Government should not be in denial that there will be hunger this year. Let them go on the ground and see for themselves that crops have failed all over the country. They should start helping our farming to find other means of ensuring that they survive the period that is coming ahead of us. Otherwise, all they are doing is giving people false hope that there will be enough maize stocks until the following farming season. I don’t think we will have that maize with this season that has destroyed our crops,” said Moobwe. “The Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit should prepare for the calamity that is coming ahead us. There will be hunger and it’s important to even sensitize our farmers on how they can ensure that they keep some maize to avoid the hunger. Once they harvest, they shouldn’t be careless or they will suffer the consequences.”