President Edgar Lungu says the 2019 farming inputs which will be distributed under the e-voucher system include drought resistant crops as a measure of mitigating climate change.

And President Lungu has urged citizens to make planting trees a habit, warning that indiscriminate cutting of trees will not be tolerated.

Meanwhile, President Lungu says government plans to increase access to electricity in rural areas from the current 4.4 per cent to 51 percent by 2030.

Speaking when he launched the 2019 planting season in Chikankata, Wednesday, President Lungu noted that climate change had badly affected farmers.

“It is befitting that this year’s launch for the planting season is taking place in Southern Province. Southern Province is one of the biggest agricultural provinces in the country. This region was once the bread basket of Zambia for many years. However, the effects of climate change have altered this status in recent years. The growth prospects of the agriculture sector in this part of Zambia has narrowed, and this, is indeed worrisome. With this prevailing scenario in Southern Province, there is urgent need for government to come up with alternative solutions to mitigate the challenge. One of the most important solutions to the devastation is replenishing the province with trees through a tree planting initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources. Deforestation is one of the major causes of climate change. Therefore, I urge all Zambians to making it a habit to plant as many trees as possible and avoid indiscriminate cutting of trees. Farmers countrywide are struggling to contain the effects of climate change which include droughts, floods and extreme temperatures, resulting in increased outbreaks of pests and diseases,” President Lungu said.

“Our success in the fight against effects of climate change squarely lies in our approach. This calls for mindset change. We need to change our farming practices. My government will not tolerate a business as usual approach in the agriculture sector. For the current farming season, my government has resolved to implement the e-voucher system, under the farmer input support programme, in areas which have continued to be affected by dry spells and droughts. These areas include southern and western provinces. Southern and Western Provinces are the worst hit by the effects of climate change. Implementing the e-voucher programme in these two provinces will ensure farmers have access to a wider variety of inputs. The inputs will include drought resilient crop varieties, early maturing varieties for maize, and other crops to help cushion the impact of climate change.”

The Head of State also announced that due to persistent droughts in some parts of the country, government had embarked on various projects develop irrigation infrastructure.

He urged farmers to plant early in order to address some challenges which have resulted in high mealie meal prices.

“Today’s event will form the basis upon which we will determine whether by next year, agricultural challenges would have been addressed. Therefore, it is important for farmers to plant early, use certified seed and use fertilisers recommended by extension officers in your areas,” he said, further urging the Zambia Police and other security wings to bring all culprits selling fake inputs to book.

Meanwhile, speaking when he launched the Dundumwezi Grid Extension project later in the day, President Lungu said government was working hard to improve access to electricity in rural areas.

“This project is very important because it comes barely a month after we celebrated independence. This project is therefore government’s independence gift to the people of Dundumwezi. This project is earmarked to supply electricity to the Dundumwezi area in Chief Chikanta’s chiefdom which has never ever been connected to the national electricity grid since independence. The commissioning of this project of about K10 million shows government’s commitment to empower local communities. This project serves as one of the flagships of the PF government’s efforts to increase access to electricity…we know that with this coming of electricity to Dundumwezi, the place will never be the same again. Access to electricity by rural areas in Zambia is currently at 4.4 per cent. This is saddening and should not be allowed to continue because electricity is one of the key catalysts to national development…the target is to raise this by 51 per cent by 2030,” said President Lungu.