ZNS intensifies war against hunger, commits to harvest 15,000 Metric tones of maize by August

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TO counter the effects of the drought on the availability and affordability of the country’s staple food, the Zambia National Service (ZNS) has announced its intentions to harvest upto 15,000 metric tonnes of maize within the next four months.

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ZNS Commander Lieutenant General Maliti Solochi made the announcement at press briefing in Lusaka yesterday.

According to Lt General Solochi, ZNS would utilise
1,978 hectares of land to grow irrigated maize which should be ready by August this year.

A drought has hit Zambia and withered crops in close to 90 districts across the country and threatened a devastating a hunger situation.

President Hakainde Hichilema has responded to the drought situation by declaring it a national disaster and emergency, calling on the defense force to help in mitigating the situation.

In heeding President Hichilema’s call, ZNS which is already producing and supplying cheaper meal meal under the Eagles Milling brand, pledged to grow the maize at the presser also convened by Defense Minister Ambrose Lufuma.

In his remarks, the minister echoed the President Hichilema’s call upon all the three defence forces to ensure the nation was food secure, more especially that the Head of State had indicated that the 2024 budget will be re-aligned to effectively respond to the disaster and national emergency.

The minister said in order to ensure robust movement of works among the three defence services, he had constituted a drought disaster and emergency response team that would be chaired by the Permanent Secretary and whose members shall be drawn from all the three services.

And to ensure that President Hichilema’s directives are adhered and followed, Lufuma ordered the three defence wings with short and medium terms which includes; the Zambia Army and ZAF to begin utilizing water resources within and around their Copperbelt and North-Western based farms to engage in irrigated maize production through drip irrigation.

He also directed the ZNS to ensure streamline distribution of its mealie meal and continue forging partnerships with private millers to ensure the commodity was sold at fair prices country wide, as he warned traders with the tendency of hiking the eagles price.

Lufuma revealed that the ministry would concentrate on working closely with seed scientists and Agriculture research centers to ensure that the seed and synthetic fertilizers are best suited for wide-ranging different climate conditions.

He sais a robust dam construction shall be undertaken in all defense farms, engagement with local authorities and traditional leaders in selected regions in order for the defense forces to attain more land to be turned into farms.

“ZNS will need to complement the efforts of the extension officers from the ministry of Agriculture by regularly sharing tested best practices in agriculture production with local farmers near their localities,” said Lufuma.

In responding to the minister, Lt Gen Solochi said the ZNS currently aims at drilling solar boreholes in its ranches to mitigate water shortages likely to be experienced which may affect livestock.

Lt Gen Solochi said ZNS was suspending the growing of wheat in order to commit all its irrigation equipment to grow irrigated maize, with an addition of two more farms that will grow maize, and add 128 and 520 hectares respectively.

He said the service will not only offer technical expertise but also avail the earth moving and agriculture equipment to sister services when need arises in their quest to contribute to the national food business, as it aims to continue bringing more retailers and millers on board in the production and selling of the Eagles mealie meal.

And it its medium term interventions, three more dams are to be constructed this year at Airport Farms, Sopelo in Lusaka West and Nyimba.

Four more center pivots are being installed to bring the total holding of center pivot irrigation equipment to twenty six. This will add 360 hectares to irrigate crop, with the construction of community dams to promote irrigation farming in the country in collaboration with the ministry of water and sanitation.

“I call upon all ZNS personnel to approach the task ahead with total commitment and sacrifice for the good of our nation,” said Lt Gen Solochi.

By Buumba Mwitumwa

Kalemba March 6, 2024

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