The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection-a faith based civil society organisation has asked the Zambia’s Government to expedite the procurement and delivery of inputs to farmers to limit the risk of low agricultural production to lessen food security while ensuring the Fertilizer Input Support Programme (FISP) is transparent to avert politisation, corruption, favoritism and exclusion of beneficiaries amid increased food prices.
JCTR in addressing the Lusaka-based journalists said in a statement seen by FRA, calls for predictability of the business environment in the sector as it ponders on mechanization of the agriculture sector-a move away from the traditional industrial one practiced over the years.
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The Government needs to induce financial inclusion for the farmers-chiefly in rural parts of the country and ensure disaster preparedness and necessitate better access to farming inputs.
As the Government endeavors to ensure fuel pump price is cost reflective spurred by the international oil price adjustment, there is an urgent need to be cautious and ensure there is no uncertainty by prospective market players because its unwavering has potential to prevent them from investing in the sector.
The Zambia Revenue Authority needs to upscale monitoring and awareness interventions to limit tax evasion and drive compliance as it will help reduce the tax arrears reported in the Auditor General’s 2021 report.
The agency should in turn ensure collected tax revenue is invested in the agriculture sector and in turn, help reach more small holder farmers.
JCTR urged teh Government to sustain pro-poor policies and ensure the most vulnerable people in the country are cushioned from the high cost of living induced by rising inflation and the geopolitical factors including the high costs of fuel and Russia-Ukraine war that have ignited harsh living conditions.
And JCTR in its analysis of the food basket for a family of five conducted in 16 districts of the country in November showed an increase in the costs compared to a month earlier, a call for increased support to agriculture to ensure food security.
In its monthly food basket, the JCTR notes that food prices in Zambia have proven to have a strong influence on inflation over the years and have the potential to create food shortages and subsequent rise in the cost of living for most households spurred by various factors.
“Compounded by the impact of the war in Ukraine on Zambian food prices, the most vulnerable people in the nation stand to bear the brunt of the country’s high cost of living, these have both short and long term socio economic implications because the spending power will be more skewed towards food at the expense of other critical needs such as health, education and even insurance,” says Muchimba Siamachoka, the JCTR program manager.
On the fish ban and high electricity tariffs, JCTR fears there could be the sparking points for increased cost of living as many people, affected by the high cost of living could be affected.
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She however, cautioned Zambia against exporting much of the maize and other foods at the expense of national food security noting the scanty rainfall patterns and the shortcomings in the distribution and availing of the inputs to most stallholder farmers-many that are yet to receive them.
Assistant Programme managers at JCTR Micomyiza Dieudonne called for increased budgetary allocation to the climate change action by the Government in next year’s budget to mitigate the costs.
Another assistant programme officer at JCTR, Aquila Ng’onga calls for increased small holder farmers’ increased access to financial inclusion policies noting that the lack of resources financial inclusion could deter them from contributing to the country’s national food security.