Wednesday, April 04, 2012
By Hope Chanda in Ndola
Wed 04 Apr. 2012, 12:56 CAT
AGRICULTURE minister Emmanuel Chenda says the rural electrification project has the potential to enhance irrigation agriculture and ultimately reduce the country's dependence on rain-fed crops and improve food security.
And Chenda has expressed sadness that impassable roads in rural areas have remained one of the major challenges that make most farmers fail to access markets for their crops.
In an interview yesterday, Chenda said the rural electrification project, once completed, would enhance irrigation systems which most farmers have not adopted because of the difficulties they experience in pumping water from reservoirs.
"Climate change has put the country in a desperate position to move away from dependence on rain-fed crops and ensure that agriculture activities are there throughout the year and not only during rainy season. Rural electrification, if completed, would help many farmers to engage in irrigation system and this can alleviate poverty in rural areas. In case of extreme weather conditions like draught or floods, the country should at least have alternative agriculture methods to sustain its food security," Chenda said.
"We Ministry of Agriculture are excited about the advancement of rural electrification because it has a number of benefits to our ministry. We are going to push the Ministry of Energy to connect power to all rural areas so that farmers can increase their food production and contribute greatly to the country's GDP Gross Domestic Product. Electricity is cheaper than using fuel to pump water from dams for irrigation. So, rural electrification will ease the work of the majority farmers."
He said farmers were facing a number of challenges to meet their targets.
And Chenda expressed sadness that some farmers were unable to access markets for their maize harvested during the last rainy season because of impassable roads in many areas.
"Many farmers work hard but fail to access market for their crops because of impassable roads and they find it hard to have finances to assist them buy farming inputs for the next farming season. The agriculture sector is facing a lot of problems which need to be addressed if it can effectively contribute to economic development of the country," said Chenda.
"Infrastructure development is a must in this sector because agriculture is one of the key drivers of Zambia's economic development. Poor infrastructure has hindered progress in the agriculture sector."