The Mkushi Farmers Association has rejected a request from government for financial contributions towards this year’s Independence celebrations, saying they have no money to support that cause, and insisting that they would rather spend whatever little they can raise on a local orphanage.

This was in response to a letter dated October 15, from the Mkushi District Commissioner Mwamba who wanted the commercial farmers to help put resources together and support the 2018 Independence Day slated for next Wednesday.

In a letter dated October 16, and copied to Central Province Permanent Secretary Chanda Kabwe, the farmers’ association chairman Nico Dr Kock pointed to the biting economy, stressing that he had guided farmers not to feel obligated to make Independence contributions to the government office.

“Thank you for the letters addressed to our various farmers and dated 5th October, 2017, requesting for support towards this year’s Independence Day celebrations. Sadly, our farmers are not in a position to support this event in a large way. Many of them are operating at the brink of their overdraft limits, and they are not sure whether their banks will be supporting them as we enter into the new season. Several of them are also operating under final demand letters, where the banks are about to foreclose on their operations. We have advised those farmers who are struggling not to feel that they have to make any donations towards the event,” Kock stated in the letter.

He, however, urged those that had the capacity to raise a small donation to instead support the Mkushi Hospital as well as the Maranatha Orphanage.

“For those who have the capacity to raise a small donation, we have recommended that they specifically support the donations to the Mkushi Hospital as well as to the Maranatha Orphanage, as the two sectors specifically link in with our objective to support the health sector as well as the vulnerable in society. With regard to support for the prisons, we have asked our farmers to consider providing support at a later time in the year, and when their budgets might allow, and hopefully once they have undergone their upcoming bank reviews, which will decide their respective fates. Farmers who support local organizations within their respective areas have indicated that they are continuing to help these despite their dire financial conditions (these include local schools and health centres), and we commend them for this, in these trying times. We are also very aware that our struggles are intricately linked to those around us and that as we go through these times, the whole community will also be suffering, and we feel for their plight,” he explained.

And Kock stated that it was the association’s prayer that farmers’ cries to improve the dwindling farming conditions would be heard.

“We continue to hope that our cry for assistance will be heard, as farming (at all levels of the sector) has become increasingly difficult over the past three years. Prices for our produce have been low (even in the face of shortages), expenses have been climbing, and our interest rates continue to remain high. Several farmers are also operating on low water capacity due to regional drought, which has left some dams low on water. We hope you understand our predicament. As an association, we have provided developmental support to the new Mkushi Hospital this year, and we also participated in a big way in the [Central Province] Investment Forum and Expo, in the hope that it might help to improve the sector for all those who reside here, as our supporting businesses are also finding the economic climate challenging,” stated Kock.