MPOROKOSO Central PF member of parliament Brian Mundubile says excessive reliance on maize as the country’s staple food is threatening food security as can be seen from Zambians’ insatiable demand for the commodity.
Mundubile told News Diggers! in an interview that there was need to diversify Zambia’s agriculture sector from a maize-driven sector to other crops like millet and cassava, among others.
Mundubile, who was in Mporokoso for a tour of his constituency the past week, also discouraged farmers from selling their maize produce to briefcase buyers at this stage, saying the move threatened national food security.
“Food security is threatened as we are talking now, and so, we want to find ways to discourage our farmers from selling maize at this particular point. But also, we know that it may be an appeal battle because apart from a moral appeal, we may not have any other instrument to use to discourage them. But as the people of Mporokoso, we are saying, we need to find a lasting solution because the temptation is very high as it were. We have a situation where as a country, maize is our staple food; so is Congo, Malawi and many other countries. So, the demand for maize is so high that it has become very difficult and you can imagine, now, what we have, people are buying maize whilst it’s in the field before harvesting, that is how serious this is. But we’ve gone all out to tell our people to say, ‘can you please ensure that you are food secure before you can sell the next bag?’ So, these are attempts that we are making and we have called on our people to continue with the same,” Mundubile said.
“But we have also gone to say that the answer to this may be crop diversification. We have to diversify our diet; we also need to work on the crop diversification so that we can also grow other crops that can equally serve the purpose that maize serves. Here in Mporokoso, speaking as one that grew up from here, we basically lived and survived on millet and cassava for many years and those of us that came from very big families, our parents had no challenge because we basically grew this particular crop and that’s what we used. So, I believe that we can still do the same where our local farmers can grow maize for business and then for their own food security, let them do millet, they can do cassava and many other crops.”
He also emphasized the need for consumers, especially in rural areas, to invest in food preservation methods.
“If you looked at Mporokoso, I will tell you that from time to time, we have so much to eat that we actually waste this food away. Talk about mangoes, mushrooms, caterpillar, and just the things that are naturally given to us. But I think we haven’t yet developed skills to preserve these foods that come to us in volumes at some point and only to find ourselves with food at a given time. So, it’s a question of mindset change; when can we say that we have eaten? Why don’t we think sweet potatoes is food? Pumpkins is equally food. When you travel across the world, especially China where I found pumpkins, you know they preserve them, they’ve got them right through the year, meaning that in terms of food, there is always something that you can nibble on going forward,” observed Mundubile.
“But for as long as maize remains our staple food, there is going to be pressure on that particular crop and we will have problems. I think this happened to other countries also when they relied on rice. It didn’t matter how many times you increased production on this particular crop, there was still pressure on it because that is the crop that you had made the staple food. So, now we have to look at other food to form part of our staple food and main meal going forward. That way, the pressure on maize can ease, we can actually sell maize and be able to survive because we are relying on other crops and other food stuffs.”