Chaos in input distribution

It is not debatable; the country may not record a bumper harvest in the coming marketing season as it has in the past years because of the poor and late distribution of fertilizer by suppliers.

Many farmers in the country have complained of not having received both basal and top dressing fertilizer on time and the situation will ultimately affect yield production because poor distribution of fertilizer results in harvest losses and subsequently food security.

Government has failed to put in place mechanisms to ensure timely distribution of fertilisers to the farmers and the delays countrywide have caused the farmers to panic.

The country has already faced other challenges in the agriculture sector with army worms destroying several hectares of maize fields early this year before the peasant farmers were asked to re-plant their fields.

But despite re-planting their fields’ fertilizer has not been made available to the farmers, a situation which has angered many of them.

It is common knowledge that the immediate solution for Zambia’s economic survival next to the mining industry is the agricultural sector.

But in order for this sector to compete favourably in terms of earning revenue for the nation, so many systems need to be put in place and correctly too.

One of the key areas that need to be attended to is the effective implementation of input support programme to peasant farmers, who constitute the majority of the Zambian farming community, and paramount on this list is fertiliser distribution.

Government is currently implementing the Fertiliser Support Programme (FSP) which was commenced in the 2003 farming season, albeit in a chaotic manner that has left many peasant farmers without the farm inputs.

The FSP is aimed at subsidizing fertiliser and seed for the majority of the poor but viable peasant farmers so that their agriculture production could be enhanced.

However, this programme has so far yielded little of its objectives due to a number of constraints, which include unfair and delayed distribution of inputs and inefficient application methods, among other issues.

Even government’s decision to import urea from Saudi Arabia this year has contributed not only to the delays in distribution but escalated the cost of fertilizer on the local market which has severely affected the poor farmer.

 Vulnerable groups in rural areas, most of whom are women, children and the aged, depend on farming as the main source of livelihood.

But limited access to improved seed, fertilizers, agricultural credit, farm produce markets and extension services has generated major concerns among government policy makers.

Given that the highest rates of poverty are in the rural areas and agriculture being a major and important source of livelihood as well as a source of income for most rural communities, it is important to note that support to agricultural smallholders has been identified as a priority by the Zambian government to reduce poverty and enhance household food security.