Monday, December 16, 2013

Farmers are failing to graduate from dependency on govt, says Fr Mwanza
By Mwala Kalaluka and Christopher Miti in Petauke
Sun 03 Nov. 2013, 14:00 CAT

COMMENT - Fr. George Mwanza should familiarize himself with American agriculture, which is very heavily subsidized. No one is wondering when the transnational corporations that now own American agriculture will ever 'graduate from government support', and unlike Zambian farmers, they don't need it. Supporting agriculture is one of the tasks of government. - MrK

A PETAUKE clergyman says farmers are failing to graduate from government dependence following the removal of maize subsidies because the farming cooperatives aimed at sustaining their agricultural power solely concentrated on acquiring bags of fertiliser.

And Fr George Mwanza, the parish priest at Petauke's St Thomas Anglican Church, says the government has concentrated its road rehabilitation programmes in Msanzala constituency of the district where the area member of parliament is a member of the ruling party.

Fr Mwanza said in an interview in Petauke on Friday that the area's economic activities were driven by the agriculture sector, but the marketing system in the district was not okay and as such, the economy of the district was struggling.

"Things are not okay in terms of the market system. FRA this year, I don't think there was much. People were still complaining," Fr Mwanza said. "Last time they were told the government was going to buy the crops but to their disappointment, it was not what they expected and at the end of the day, they sold their maize earlier than the FRA market season."

He said the other problem was that none of the depots in the district had been supplied with fertiliser.

"It's not promising that the farmers are going to have their inputs earlier, which is another threat and I don't know what will happen because the issue of the removing of subsidy; they were just taken unaware," Fr Mwanza said. "If they had done it slowly, that was going to create space for the farmers to start preparing themselves."

The clergyman said farmers depend on the crops they sell to realise monies which they use for their day-to-day business.

"Most of the farmers they expected subsidies maybe to be removed slowly, gradually. Now they don't know where to begin from because our cooperatives here, they were only cooperatives which were meant to acquire fertiliser only and not to sustain them for a longer period that they can be weaned," he said. "So it was just a group which would acquire fertiliser that is all…I thought maybe, this was not properly done when they were forming cooperatives. It was supposed to be a cooperative where five years, people have to graduate and stand on their own financially, but this is not the case."

He further said the concept of cooperatives was not well understood because as far as farmers were concerned, they only needed to come up with a team that would put its money together without looking at how they would sustain that cooperative.

"But the removal of subsidies meant that these people were not prepared and I don't know what will happen this season," he said.

"To my understanding, shares were supposed to be accumulating interest but for them, it is just a matter of getting a bag of fertiliser, that is all."
And Fr Mwanza said although very few people would complain about roads in Petauke, there was always a political interference whenever it came to rehabilitating or upgrading them.

"During the time when there are by-elections, you see the tippers and people being employed, but after the by-elections, you find that all the vehicles that are supposed to be on the site, they are all removed, which I also look at to be politically moved," he said.

"I have seen roads like in Msanzala area where most of the roads are being done but here in Petauke Central, there are very few roads that are being done.

If there is any road that is being done, it should be the Kalindawalo road. In Msanzala, there is a PF member of parliament, but we don't have anyone to represent us here in Petauke Central. So, most of the things are slowing down."

However, Fr Mwanza said the people of Petauke Central had seen development on the part of the market which he said was well done.
On education, he said that the state of most community schools was deplorable but was quickly to mention that the standards in other schools that were in the vicinity of the Boma were fine.

"Just some 10 kilometres from here, you find that some children are still sitting on the floor. Not even a floor where there is cement, but on the dust and using their laps as desks," he said.

Fr Mwanza called on health workers to change their work culture and serve people in the district without looking at their political affiliation or otherwise.

"The working culture is very bad, especially this time when people want to go on a go-slow, you find that people are not caring," said Fr Mwanza. "The 'Church', we have different programmes which are community-based looking at how we can educate the people as well as alleviate poverty."

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