Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Diversify, Panji advises farmers
By Christopher Miti
Wed 05 Feb. 2014, 14:01 CAT

This is excellent advice. Ultimately, we should create farms that don't have inputs, only outputs, and it is possible with permaculture and solar energy. - MrK

COLONEL Panji Kaunda says people are conditioned to thinking that maize is the alpha and the omega of food. In an interview on Monday, Col Panji, who is transport deputy minister but speaking in his capacity as a banana farmer in Sindemisale area of Vubwi district said, the Farmer Input Support Programme was not sustainable.

He said farmers should try other forms of farming that do not require chemical fertilisers.

"There is a lot of information on agroforestry farming where we have trees like Musangu and many others that our scientists have looked upon so that we can do small- scale farming without necessarily applying inputs. If you do this programme, for example, if you put Musangu in your field, within ten years you don't need chemical fertilisers anymore. And that particular farmer will never go back to the government and ask for fertiliser," Col Panji said.

He said agroforest farming was self-sustaining.

"We have over a number of years spent billions of kwacha, a bit of our money and donor funds researching into agroforestry, and it has been proved that these trees and crops that we have worked on do work very well. We have famous Musangu tree, Trephosia, Sesbania, Glyrisdia, Sunhemp, and many others that have been developed," Col Panji said.
He said there was need to migrate the farmers that qualify to the FISP Programme to agroforestry.

"Using the reforestation programme, we must plant the trees that are required in agricultural farming. It should be a requirement for all those who qualify for the FISP programme to also accept the agroforestry one. For two years, we can monitor these farmers to ensure that the trees are being looked after properly. The two years will ensure that trees that are usable in this period are ready for use by the third year. These farmers would then be weaned-off the FISP programme," Col Panji explained.

He said merely delivering inputs to the people does not make them farmers.

"Even the so called 'bumper harvests' that we are so proud of are a mirage. If we compare the amount of seed and fertilisers that are given to the farmers and the maize that we harvest, we will find that we are very much below the minimum numbers of bags that a farmer is expected to get," Col Panji said.

"The question we must ask ourselves as a nation is , 'can we sustain the subsidies on both consumption and production of maize, and still promote the growth of our agriculture to the levels of its potential'? The answer is 'no, we cannot'. Must we abandon the small-scale farmers to fend for themselves? No."

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