Maize politics


While we respect the choice of Zambians to elect maize as the produce of their staple food; nshima, the events of the last few weeks point to the need for the diversification of eating habits.

This is not to say Zambians should entirely discard nshima as their staple food but recognise that there always options in life when faced with scarcity of one’s traditional food.

All countries have their preferred national food but the level at which Zambians have placed maize and its by-product of nshima gives credence to insinuations that we can allow ourselves to starve because of lack of the commodity.

It is surprising that some politics can raise international alarm that Zambians are dying of hunger simply because of dubious dealing in maize transactions.

We say dubious dealings because Zambia is one of the three countries that had maize surplus grain in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

While other SADC countries had maize deficits, Zambia had 880,000 tonnes in resrves, with Tanzania having 810,000 tonnes while South Africa had 310,000 tonnes. This is the reason why it makes sense that the unnecessary alarm about maize shortage has triggered panic buying hence the increase in mealie meal prices and smuggling.

Hence the politics of maize that Zambians are currently witnessing.

Zambians have been psyched to believe that without nshima, then they are dead and buried when the opposite is true.

A look at the food statistics proves that with ‘diversification’ in eating habits, Zambians can still survive with alternative foods in the absence of nshima.

Zambians cannot solely depend on maize as their only main source of food when they are other nutritious food that can be substitutes. There should be a deliberate policy to increase the production of sorghum which this year reduced by 29.7 percent to 8,123 metric tonnes from 11,557 metric tonne in the 2013/14 season. 

Millet should also be promoted. The increase by 4.8 percent to 31,967 metric tonnes from 30,504 metric tonnes in 2013/14 should be commended.

Rice production should also be promoted and eaten as an alternative. Therefore , the reduction by 48.6 percent to 25,514 metric tonnes from 49,640 metric tonnes in the 2013/14 season should be discouraged.

The growing of sweet potatoes should also be encouraged. The decrease by 21.2 percent to 118,330 metric tonnes from 150,158 metric tonnes 2013/14 does not demonstrate a people interested in food alternatives.

Irish potatoes should also be encouraged as was the case in the 2014/15 season  which had 45,902 metric tonnes from 33,833 metric tonnes in the 2013/14 season.

If such crops are grown in abundance and promoted as alternatives, Zambians would stop politics of nshima as the only food that keeps them alive.

Categorized | Editorial

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