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Declaring drought as a national disaster is late – UKA

Filed under: Latest News,Politics |
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The United Kwacha Alliance (UKA) Party says the declaration by President Hakainde Hichilema that the prolonged dry spell is a national disaster and emergency has come little too late.

UKA says the declaration should have been made way back in October 2023.

On Thursday, 29 February, 2024, President Hichilema declared the prolonged dry spell as a national disaster and emergency.

UKA said this in a statement below seen by Zambian Eye.

 

UKA RESPONDS TO PRESIDENT HAKAINDE HICHILEMA’S EMERGENCY DECLARATION
01st March, 2024

We, at the United Kwacha Alliance (UKA) followed with great interest President Hakainde Hichilema’s press briefing of 29th February, 2024, where he declared a national disaster due to the apparent ‘prolonged drought’ facing the nation.

While the declaration is welcome, we feel it has come ´too little too late´ and should have been declared as far back as October 2023 – which coincidentally is when the cholera issue should have also been declared a disaster. All the science pointed to the fact that Zambia would inevitably find itself in this unfortunate drought predicament sooner rather than later.

We shudder to think of the consequences the adverse effects of the drought will have on the majority of poor households in Zambia that are already feeding on only one meal a day because of the scarce and very expensive (a 25kg bag now costs about K360 from around K100 under the previous administration) mealie meal.

This, in spite of the fact that Mr. Hichilema promised to bring down the prices of our staple maize meal to K50 but alas, this was just one of the dozens of false promises he made to win an election.

What baffles and hurts us the most, as UKA, is the fact that President Hichilema, for no particular reason aside from greed, embarked on a mission to sell more than 1.5 MILLION METRIC TONNES OF MAIZE, our staple food in the reserves to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Now, when our people need it the most, faced with the very reason why food reserves were made –a possible famine, the reserves are not available and our people are faced with a looming hunger situation.

Up to now, we cannot understand or comprehend why a responsible government would sell its emergency maize stock to a neighbouring country even amidst warnings that a drought and food shortages were looming.

We can only ask a simple question, “Mr President what where you thinking Sir?

MR HICHILEMA SOLUTIONS TO HEAL THIS ILL?

In his usual brash and ´know it all´ posture Mr Hichilema has promised to combat future droughts or calamities:

a. Through the donor begging bowl as an immediate action also finding solutions.

b. Through generating energy which has been affected by the drought.

c. Through solar energy, provide cheaper finance provide insurance for farmers and

d. To grow winter maize.

As UKA we do not believe that those solutions are immediately impactful and are an adequate response to the declared national disaster. Going around the world like butterflies begging for food, is not a solution Mr President.

We are in an emergency situation and that requires a well thought through localised response that is immediately practical and identifiable. In an emergency situation there is need to give very detailed step by step guidelines that, all involved can immediately implement and thus avert the situation.

WHAT SOLUTIONS IS UKA OFFERING IN THIS CRISIS MOMENT

What are the immediate measures we must put in place to mitigate the effects of the looming hunger situation caused by the lack of foresight and resultant ineptitude actions of the New Dawn Government?

In the Immediate Term
1. Determine how much land is available under irrigation for Commercial and Medium sized farmers. It is this land, that we need to utilise to save the nation from starvation.

2. We advise that Government engages Commercial and Medium sized farmers, for a discussion. These are currently preparing their fields in readiness to grow and irrigate their wheat.

3. Engage the commercial farmers and persuade them to plant maize instead.

4. Offer the farmers who have irrigatable land, the following:
i. Free electricity when they agree to plant maize on behalf of the nation.
ii. Free maize seeds.
iii. Free fertiliser.
iv) Agree on a pre-planting program.The opportunity cost of not planting wheat, must be borne by Government. The farmers need to be compensated for them not planting wheat.

5. On livestock, all the Constituency Development Funds (CDF) must be redeployed to drilling commercial boreholes.

6. These must be used for supply of water to livestock and for those people around those boreholes, to grow some food. These can include maize, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, butternuts, potatoes etc.

7. While you announced that senior government officials will no Longer fly business class and travel entourages be reduced, UKA recommends that you cut on your very costly foreign trips in order to channel funds into the Agriculture Sector.

In the Medium Term
8. Come to terms with the fact that Southern, Central and other such Provinces can no longer be relied upon to be the grain basket of the nation, owing to the fact that the rain-belt has shifted further North. There is therefore need to look North whether you like the people of the Northern Block or not!

9. Shift resources and skills to the Northern Block and harvest maize twice a year while you plant crops that are less water dependant in the other Provinces.

10. Improve farming Blocks like the Luena Farming Block in Chief Munkata’s area which has about 100,000 hectares of arable land and adequate water.

In conclusion, while, you Mr President CANCELLED the road construction contracts as well as electrification works to the Luena farming block simply because this was a project initiated by your predecessor such projects actually do offer solutions to the challenges being faced by the nation. Let us localise the solutions to these challenges facing us. We have the answers in-country.

God bless Zambia

Issued by:
Jackson Silavwe
National Council Member
UKA

Saboi Imboela
National Council Member
UKA

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