President Edgar Lungu has challenged the Defence wings to take advantage of the existing peace by venturing into serious agricultural activities and contributing to national food security.
President Lungu said this when he inspected and launched the first wheat harvest grown in Eastern Province on 120 hectares land by the Zambia National Service (ZNS) Lumezi unit in Lundazi yesterday.
President Lungu said the Government was aware of the strategic role the Defence forces played in national development and his call should not be viewed as cue for a departure from their core focus of maintaining peace and security in the country.
He was pleased that the ZNS had utilised its strategic position as a multifaceted institution to venture into other economic activities like agriculture and infrastructure development beyond its mandate of defence and security.
"Going forward, we envisage the Zambia Army, the Zambia Air Force and, indeed, the Zambia Police Service to seriously venture into agriculture to enhance our economy. Our desire is to see a defence wing that will exert its energies towards food production. I am confident that in no time, we can turn the fortunes of this great country around," he said.
President Lungu noted that the defence wings should be relied upon not only in maintaining peace and security, but also in contributing to the nation's food security.
He observed that no soldier could go to battle on an empty stomach and that was why Defence Minister Davies Chama was "on his toes" to ensure that the defence teams rose to the challenge.
He said it was the Government's priority to make agriculture the driver of Zambia's economy, shifting from mining.
He said the ZNS Lumezi wheat farm was a clear example of the path the country should be treading but urged the Service to increase the hectarage to help the country become self sufficient in wheat production.
Mr Lungu was also happy that ZNS was installing nine centre pivots at its other units, a move that he said would significantly contribute to wheat production and other high value crops.
The President extended his advice to farmers generally not to be "glued" to maize production only as he did not want any crop to be political.
President Lungu expected farmers to consider growing other high value crops besides pledging the Government's support to crop production.
ZNS Commandant Nathan Mulenga said the service was responding to President Lungu's challenge by opening up more virgin land in most of its units to increase production hectarage in maize, wheat and soya beans.
Lieutenant General Mulenga said ZNS had become a pioneer of growing high value crops like wheat in Eastern Province.
He said the Lumezi ZNS unit became the fourth in the country to be installed with a centre pivot irrigation system and that nine more would be installed at its other bases.
ZNS Lumezi commanding officer Kennedy Nkanga said it was the first time since the unit was created in 1984 that a Head of State was visiting the place.