STATEMENT: Government must support farmers to grow drought resistant crops

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ZAMBIA like many other countries is experiencing El-nino weather conditions, and this has caused droughts in rainfall in most parts of the country.

This has resulted into severe consequences for the farmers most especially the women and people living in rural areas, it also threatens the livelihood of urban communities.

It is estimated that one million hectares of crops including maize have been lost due to this drought, and there is also a threat on livestock and wildlife due to lack of adequate pasture and water.

President Hakainde Hichilema of the Republic of Zambia on Thursday, February 29, 2024 declared the current prolonged droughts in Zambia as a national disaster and emergency.

The highlighted short-term measures by the President may not be adequate to transform the agriculture sector to respond to the crisis. We see need for government to come up with strategies that are both gender sensitive and inclusive for future drought mitigation in addition to irrigation support.

We therefore call upon government as short-term measures to support farmers to grow drought tolerant crops such as sorghum, millets, cassava, sweet potatoes and sunflower to ensure that people have food even in drought situations.

Government should support diversification away from promoting maize at the expense of other
crops which are well adapted and tolerant to climate variations.

Indicators amidst this drought show that farmers who planted indigenous crops such as millet and sorghum will manage to harvest something while those who planted maize may experience 100% loss due to drought.

We call upon the government that the 2024-2025 Farmer Input Support programme and Food Security Pack (FSP) should not be done like the previous ones.

It should be expanded to include crops which are drought tolerant and are able to withstand the
changing weather patterns. This strategy will safeguard human life in the likely event of another drought.

We call upon government to restructure the 2024 national budget so that it responds to the needs of millions of people who are exposed to hunger.

We call upon Government to promote practices such as ecological agriculture, agroecology, organic agriculture, as a key adaptation for drought mitigation.

Agroecology should be incorporated in education curriculum so that extension officers are able to support farmers on agroecology. Further, the government of Zambia should also promote new urban agriculture technologies such as Hydroponics to reduce food insecurity for the urban poor.

Food Reserve Agency’s (FRA) must be restructured to include purchase of millets,
sorghum, and cassava as a way of mitigating the impact of drought and ensure that
people have access to food (mealie meal).

By actively promoting these crops and incorporating them into relief programs or public
procurement initiatives, the government can stimulate demand for locally produced
food.

This not only supports local farmers but also strengthens local food systems and
economies.

We call upon Government to increase the number of people on social cash transfer to
include the number of people who have been made vulnerable by the current crisis.

Further the amounts on the social cash transfer must be increased to accommodate
the growing high cost of living.

Access to basic universal social protection is a human right that is recognized in articles 22 and 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

It requires that all people have access to adequate benefits to meet their basic needs, including with
respect to food.

In its general comment No. 19 (2007), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights emphasizes that social security systems contribute to the reduction and alleviation of poverty and inequality.

We applaud government for announcing the provision of food relief to communities
affected by the prolonged drought however, we emphasize the need for distribution
of Non- Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) maize and mealie meal.

International legal frameworks, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), emphasize the right of individuals to access safe and adequate food.

Furthermore, we emphasize the need for more investment in the early warning information system for quick and timely weather information dissemination.

This will enhance the weather communication information by the Zambia Meteorological Department of the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment to all sectors. People must be given sufficient information so that they make good decisions.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recognized that integrating climate adaptation measures into social protection increases climate resilience and has strong food security co-benefits. By promoting economic security and autonomy, including in times of climate and other crises, social security also reduces the need for
emergency assistance.

Finally, but not the least, we see need for government to support initiatives to ensure
availability of water for livestock.

FIAN Zambia
Zambia Climate Change Network (ZCCN)
People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia (PPHPZ)
Zambia Alliance of Women (ZAW)
Organic Producers Association of Zambia (OPPAZ)
FIAN International Zambia
We Effect Southern Africa

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