President Edgar Lungu has advised farmers to start investing in fish farming, saying Zambia could stop importing fish from other countries if citizens diversified their farming practices.

And Economics Association of Zambia (EAZ) president Dr Lubinda Haabazoka says the agricultural sector would become the country’s biggest employer if only citizens using government’s good policies could diversify their agricultural practices.

Speaking when a delegation of government officials from various institutions toured fish ponds at State House, Tuesday, President Lungu said farmers cultivating maize and soya beans would no longer complain about non-availability of market for their produce because more people had started engaging in fish farming.

“The production of fish has been intensified because of the number of people who are in fish farming now, and I think there is need for more soya beans, more maize. So, then, people should not say, ‘there is not market for maize or there is no market for soya beans.’ We need more soya beans so that we can feed into this fish farming industry, which is coming up. We are hoping that in years to come, we will not be importing fish. I think the figures are there to tell at the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock that in the past few years we have done very well. So, we will have to scale it up by demanding that Mr [Amos] Chanda is not alone [in this business]. We want all you to engage in fish farming, produce some chickens in the backyard and that way you will save a bit of money. ‘More money in your pockets’ means that you are saving some [resources]; you are not spending everything,” said President Lungu.

And Dr Haabazoka called on more Zambians to diversify their agricultural practices by embracing fish farming, away from maize and soya beans.

“I think we have always, as an association, advocated for economic diversification. And when you look at our agriculture sector, it’s the major employer. But unfortunately, the sector itself was not diversified. But it’s very good that for the past three years, government has continued to announce measures in the national budget that are aimed at putting more land under irrigation to ensure that we grow existing farmers [from] subsistent to commercial farmers, and also measures have been put in place to ensure that more people come on board and do fish farming,” said Dr Haabazoka.

“We cannot have a situation where Zambia is importing fish from outside the country, given the rivers, waters that we have. And it’s very good that government has identified this area as a source of not only income, but also to help reduce stunted growth, poverty…because fish is food with a high source of protein. I think that if every village had fish ponds at its farms then we are going to see that we are going to drastically [reduce] our poverty and we are going to also export to our neighbouring countries that, unfortunately, are lagging behind as compared to Zambia.”