Saturday, January 30, 2010

Govt’s non-running irrigation programme upsets EU leader

Govt’s non-running irrigation programme upsets EU leader
By Mutale Kapekele
Sat 30 Jan. 2010, 04:00 CAT

EUROPEAN Union (EU) head of delegation for Zambia Dr Derick Fee has said he is surprised that the Irrigation Fund project that was introduced in 2007 by the government to improve farmers’ productivity has not been implemented.

Answering questions from journalists after officiating at the launch of the Zambia National Farmer’s Union (ZNFU) project on improving productivity of smallscale agriculture sector yesterday, Dr Fee said he was surprised to learn that the money for the project was not there.

In September 2007, the government introduced the US $135 million Irrigation Development Fund (IDF) to help improve farmers' productivity which was supposed to be a revolving fund managed by Finance Bank Zambia.

The fund which was initially to run over a five-year period targeted small and medium scale farmers, largescale farmers and manufacturers of irrigation equipment.

“I remember attending the launch for the irrigation project and we worked with the African Development Bank ADB now Bank ABC and I am very surprised to hear that the money is not there,” Dr Fee said.

He said the irrigation project was a good one and urged the government to come up with other serious projects that the EU could fund.

“We only get involved with serious projects, we are not here to waste our time and our partners’ time,” he said.

“If there is a serious irrigation project, we can talk and see what we can do. We don’t want to hear about potential programmes. I have been hearing about potential for the past three years. Yes, potential is okay but you need to move to action.”

Earlier ZNFU president Jervis Zimba disclosed that the funds for the irrigation fund had disappeared.

“There is nothing in the account for the irrigation fund,” Zimba said.

“Right now, there is no irrigation fund. We don’t know where the money went. This is a very sad story because we should not be talking about irrigation now. I am happy that God has punished us with the drought that we are experiencing so that people can see the importance of irrigation.”

The EU yesterday released 2.4 million Euros K15 billion to ZNFU for the improvement of productivity for smallscale farmers. r Fee said the 87,000 farmers were expected to benefit from the project through increased access to agricultural support services.

“This will lead to increased household food security,” Dr Fee said. “The increased volumes of marketed farm produce will greatly contribute to reducing food prices and hence stabilising them on the local market in the long run.”

Zimba said food security was the greatest concern to his union and the country.
“Regrettably, there is overwhelming evidence that food security is still one of the greatest challenges of our time in this country,” he said.

“It is for this reason that ZNFU for over a century now has continued to work hard in mobilising farmers to ensure food insecurity will be one day a thing of the past.”

Zimba said from this year on, ZNFU would work on “unlocking” the potential for farmers.

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