30 January 2013

Zambia: Good Management Skills Will Save Agro Sector

THIS year the agriculture sector has threatening challenges though some of them have already been addressed.

The first sad news was the invasion of crop fields by army worms.

Army worms spread rapidly to all corners of the country, raising fears among farmers that the maize bumper harvests recorded in the previous two seasons may not be repeated this time around.

Now that the army worm threat seems to have been contained, we again have disturbing reports from Mungwi District of swarms of locust-like grasshoppers which have invaded farms.

The insects in this northern part of the country were first spotted last month feeding on vegetables but, sadly, they have since grown and are feeding on maize.

Just like the army worms, the grasshoppers have already begun spreading to other areas.

The two types of insects are just part of the natural forms of disaster that have hit the agriculture sector this farming season.

Even before the beginning of the rainy season, some parts of the country experienced heavy downpours that caught many people unawares.

In the process, we had reports of maize and other crops being soaked. Of course this was just a reminder to all Zambians, and farmers in particular, to always be alert and keep their farm produce in secure places.

Only last week, we had reports from Chisamba in Central Province that heavy rainfall had swept through the area, leaving a trail of destruction to both people's houses and their crops.

The Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) promised to assess the extent of damage and see how the Government could help the affected people.

In previous incidences of crop waste, it has been the Government's crop buying agency, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), which has shouldered much of the blame.

This was because the FRA either did not buy the produce or if it did, it never transported stacks and stacks of maize to safety.

The country is surely in a hurry to diversify the economy, and a well-managed agriculture sector is the way forward.

We laud the gesture by the Government, through the DMMU under the office of the vice-president, which has often come to the rescue whenever natural disasters strike.

In the case of crop failures caused by mismanagement of the produce by those who are supposed to take care of it, we won't have kind words for officers responsible.

This is because these problems are man-made and could, therefore, be easily avoided.

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