Dundumwezi UPND member of parliament Edgar Sing’ombe says the hunger situation in his constituency has continued to worsen such that 200 households in certain areas are made to share only two 50 kilogramme bags of maize.
Sing’ombe has further regretted that the recent fuel price increase by the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) will cause some of his constituents to stop commuting to the town centre to purchase mealie meal as transport costs are expected to go up.
In an interview, Sing’ombe called on government to come up with mechanisms that will ensure every citizen has access to food as it is human a right.
“The hunger situation is getting worse each time and I think right now, it will be extremely bad in that most of the people from Dundumwezi have actually been left out. I can give you two examples to cement my statement: one, talk of Bilili ward where I have 52 headmen and government is sending 133 by 50kg bags of maize which people are buying. What is saddening is that out of 133 bags, it translates to two bags per village headman. I have Milibu village for instance with about 200 plus households and they are given two by 50kgs of maize. Surely it has brought more confusion because how does a headman distribute two bags to more than 200 households? So the hunger situation is actually very bad here that no single individual can avert. We need government,” Sing’ombe said.
“The other thing that is supposed to be put into context is the fuel increment. Few people would come to town, sometimes queue for almost the whole day before they access a 25kg bag of mealie meal. Now with the increment of fuel, it means that most of our farmers now will not manage to travel to town to come and buy that 25kg [bag of mealie meal] and I think it’s [important that] government devises a system where each individual can access food, it’s a right. Right now, we have a number of people surviving on wild fruits, but for how long? So I think it’s [important] that President [Edgar] Lungu agrees with president Hakainde that this hunger situation is declared a national disaster because it is a national disaster. So for him and his Cabinet to continue being mute, it has actually surprised every citizen of my constituency and the district at large.”
He also highlighted a number of challenges that farmers were facing in accessing inputs under the conventional Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
“The fertilizer input is another serious challenge. This is why now people have agreed that when President Lungu said he had no vision…they have seen for themselves. They didn’t know what that statement meant. Surely, the fertilizer distribution or input is another thing that will not assist in averting the hunger situation even in the near future. Government has not given a price to this fertilizer and they are quick to close the borders for people who have maize to recoup the investment in agriculture. Right now, a person who goes to swipe 50kg bag of fertilizer, it’s going at K520 but a person who has cash in the same shop buys fertilizer at about K350. Surely, how can a farmer prepare? How can we reduce hunger when government is not there to assist the farmers?” Sing’ombe asked.
“They claim that they are assisting farmers through this FISP programme but I want to state that they are injecting farmers with very serious…poverty. When they are saying they are assisting the farmers, do they know how many bags of fertilizer a farmer is supposed to get from the money a farmer deposits and from the money they claim government pays? I think they have to put a very clear line. When government claims that they are putting a K2,600 for a farmer, how many bags of fertilizer are they buying for the farmer? It’s not known. Right now, a farmer gets about two to three and some five and it’s not every farmer that can argue with an agro-dealer. Government should have been in the forefront through the district agricultural coordinators to ensure that there is no single agro-dealer robbing a farmer.”
He was further saddened that most farmers had not yet planted their crops because of lack of access to inputs.
“Coming to rains, we want to thank God [that] we just received rains on Friday night. I have called around the constituency and we thank God that he has given us this blessing of heavy rains. But then, most of our farmers have not managed to plant because of them looking for seed for next year. So it is very sad that we are entering 2020 with this kind of affair in Dundumwezi,” said Sing’ombe.