The Government should stop mocking farmers.
It is not fair to suggest that Zambian farmers lack seriousness. To suggest as Vice President Dr Guy Scott has stated that Zambians take agriculture as a hobby, is great service to the thousands of men and women who undertake back breaking work to produce the various bumper harvests that the Government gladly donates outside.
The VP should take a few minutes from his air-conditioned office to visit tobacco farmers that have been languishing sleeping in the cold outside the Tobacco auction floors for lack of a market. Let him repeat the sentiment to them.
These farmers, like their cotton growing counterpart took their task very seriously. They spent their meager resources and labour to cultivate, nurture and eventually harvest tobacco or indeed cotton which they expected to sell in order to sustain their livelihoods.
Sadly as we saw last year the cotton market just dropped out, many were ruined becouse there is no price stabilisation scheme. This year tobacco farmers have had to fend for themselves in the hope of getting a market for their crop.
In all this Government has been singularly indifferent, leaving hardworking people to suffer and see their labour go to waste as their tobacco was flooded in a sudden rain deluge.
The Government was nowhere to be seen in the miseries of these hardworking folk.
This waste is unconscionable. It is a dereliction of duty.
By far the vast majority of Zambians are peasant farmers, earning their living from backbreaking labour which is clear underemployment of human capital.
If anything agriculture is the one and only occupation that will eradicate poverty, increase food security and indeed bring development to the majority of Zambians who presently stand at the periphery of the economy.
Current statistics indicate that per capita agricultural productivity in Zambia like in many other sub-Saharan countries has remained stagnant for more than 40 years. This is because Governments have not taken it seriously.
It is common knowledge that Governments in Asia and Latin America have helped their farmers’ access and utilize technology which has increased productivity while reducing labour involvement by mechanization.
Our farmers in Zambia lack simple things that would increase productivity. Extension services are virtually non-existent meaning that peasants are left to their own devices. There is no correlation between soil fertility and seeds planted. The majority of farmers plant maize- hence the bumper harvests and yet we could earn more by going the nontraditional route.
The Government should therefore take farming seriously. It is not a hobby, our hapless farmers are making do with what they have.
It is not fair to mock farmers.