An average Zambian peasant farmer who essentially is the targeted beneficiary under the FISP produces an average of 50 bags of maize each season. Translated, this is equivalent to K3,750 (at a recommended price of K75 per 50 kilogramme bag of maize). This averages annually to about K312.50 gross income per month! What with the input cost contribution for fertiliser, seed, labour etc, not to mention land preparation?
The Zambian peasant farmer will continue to wallow in poverty for as long as policy direction in this sector remains more politically than commercially inspired.
The reason advanced in parliament by Dora Siliya as the reason behind the FISP being a flop – beneficiaries turning the programme into a social cash transfer programme – is less than Zambians would like to hear. While we appreciate the practice may be rampant, the programme itself is retrogressive and perpetuates the dependency syndrome that the government should be trying hard to reverse in the Zambian populace.
To say the least, Zambia is endowed with vast arable land, excellent climatic conditions and rural manpower to grow a diverse crop mix to ensure cash growth in households.
Essentially, the government needs to develop policies that collectively will achieve, among other things, the following:
- Encourage small scale farmers to grow cash crops (even if it means redirection of the FISP itself) that will empower them financially to be able to buy the maize grown by the commercial farmer who does it for a profit;
- Reintroduce the incentives under the winter maize production programme;
- Bring back into production the now wasted maize belt of Southern province through introduction of incentives to farmers in the region badly affected by the changed rainfall pattern;
- Reintroduce the “go back to the land” scheme KK sang about in a bid to decongest the urban shanties that have become not only an eye sore but also produce dehumanising lifestyles that are far less than modern village life; and above all
- Target and incentivise the commercial farmer as the mass producer of the staple food at a profit.
- In line with this, the Kibbutz model of agriculture is a good model to emulate.
Government needs to be practical and bold to implement measures that will turn around this ‘chasing own tail’ economic activity called peasant farming in this country.
Acknowledging the programme as a flop is a major step. We await the next steps forward.