THE Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) welcomes the declaration of drought as a national disaster by the Republican President Mr. Hakainde Hichilema and the measures that will be taken to mitigate and resolve the negative effects of this drought.

This drought has been brought about by the El Nino and its effects. It has affected the agricultural sector with many farmers failing to meet their crop targets and their animal pasture drying out. This ultimately affects the families, communities and Zambia’s national food security.

As a result many farmers will not be able to meet their financial obligations to creditors for the seeds and equipment that they obtained for this farming season. Others will not be able to continue with their farming activities as this depended on them selling their produce to refinance their activities. It will take farmers many years to recover from what has happened this season.

ZNFU is pleased that Government will in view of this declaration, be re-aligning its resources to come to the aid of the farmer and that those farmers that have loans or are not insured will have their situations looked at.

Further, the Union agrees that high on the agenda, among short-term measures in dealing with the drought of this magnitude, is to safeguard human food requirements and avoid mortality due to drought effects.

This begs for deliberate efforts by government to have measures in place that will ensure that both human and animal life are taken care of. Therefore, animal feed requirements must be factored in when determining the shortfall of grain or other crops needed for feed stocks and Government must ensure that number three meal is available in the country and at affordable prices for animals.

ZNFU also commends Government for prioritising local production and productivity by committing itself to purchase all locally produced staple food to ascertain the deficit before considering importing additional maize and other crops into the country. This is commendable as the farmers would suffer more if their produce were not quickly purchased in preference to imported crops.

ZNFU also welcomes the call by President Hichilema for farmers to avail themselves to producing more winter crops this year to reduce on expected harvest deficit.

“The Union embraces this and is available to participate in the team effort under the various streams that will be established. Our desire will be to see that actions of the dialogue processes are implemented in a fast-paced manner synonymous with emergency as the situation demands so that the outcome is felt,” says ZNFU President Jervis Zimba

The Union notes that the disaster at hand also underscores the fragile nature of farming in this part of the world because of limited irrigation investments and high dependency on hydro generated electricity. It is a fact irrigation is the key to sustainable farming and the country needs to diversify its sources of energy. Farmers at all levels are committed to work with Government to invest in irrigation and solar generated power but key to address should be the underlying causes for low investments in these areas in the past.

The Union is of the view, that long term solutions must involve providing incentives that are easy to access by farmers and removal of legal impediments that exist including amending certain clauses in the Water Resources and Management Act of 2011 that hinder water harvesting.

ZNFU looks forward to contributing to the efforts of the multi-disciplinary team that will be set up by Government to mitigate this drought and national disaster so that farmer requirements are supported for them to produce new crops and foods within the shortest possible time.