SPEECH BY THE ZNFU PRESIDENT AT THE OCCASION OF THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE ZNFU REGIOAL OFFICE, IN MANSA, LUAPULA PROVINCE, ON 4TH SEPTEMBER 2009
THE GUEST OF HONOUR, THE PERMANENT SECRETARY, PROVINCIAL ADMINISTRATION, LUAPULA PROVINCE
THE PROVINCIAL AGRICULTURAL COORDINATOR
THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR – ZAMBIA NATIONAL FARMERS’ UNION
THE PROGRAM DIRECTOR – PLARD AND OTHER COOPERATING PARTNERS
THE PROVINCIAL HEADS
THE DISTRICT COMMISSIONER
THE DISTRICT HEADS OF DEPARTMENTS
THE CHAIRMEN OF DISTRICT FARMERS’ ASSOCIATION IN LUAPULA PROVINCE
ALL PROTOCOLS OBSERVED
MAY I SIMPLY SAY, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
Guest of Honour, Master of Ceremonies, may I on behalf of the Union, start my speech by conveying our profound gratitude through you Sir to the Government and your Administration for the support the farmers and the Union in particular have continued to receive. While the ZNFU has been active in the province for all 20 years, to the extent that the Union is represented in all the districts, however, today it is not only historical but also a landmark and exciting event to both to the farmers and the Union because the ZNFU physical presence has been registered and imprinted by establishing the long awaited Regional Office. I therefore wish to hasten to thank the farmers in the province for their patience, continued hope and support to the Union.
Guest of Honour, May I also take this opportunity to thank the Provincial Agricultural Coordinator’s office and the PACO herself in person for the effort she has continued to make towards building a strong working relationship between the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and the Zambia National Farmers’ Union. Her commitment to this cause can be traced from the time she was a DACO in Mbala and later a DACO in Zambezi district.
Guest of Honour, wherever she has been, the collaboration between MACO and ZNFU has been excellent, making PACO’s office reliable and a strong pivot for lifting the day to day farmers’ problems. Thank you PACO and your team, please keep up the good work, as the union we wish to assure you of our continued support.
Guest of Honour, the Union is alive to the fact that the establishment of the regional office will not wipe away all the farmers’ problems in the province, but it is the beginning of the long and difficult path to achieving agricultural prosperity. The difficulties that our farmers are going through today and many other factors attributable to lack of agricultural growth will no doubt require total commitment by all stakeholders if Zambia is to realize its agricultural potential.
Guest of Honour, the problems facing the agricultural sector today require a practical approach and a massive and decisive joint action by all stakeholders. The Union has long observed that the problems facing farmers today which are ranging from production, input access, agricultural finance and marketing are well known but what is lacking is a practical approach to resolve them, put simply implementation, implementation, and implementation.
For instance, Guest of Honour, last year the Union and the Ministry of Local Government and Housing established a joint working group which reviewed various council levies which farmers are forced to pay; in the recent past, farmers will agree with me, that council levies have become a huge cost being incurred by farmers when transferring their produce to markets.
It is regrettable and disappointing, however, that despite constant reminders by the Union to have the recommendation of the joint working group implemented, the Ministry of Local Government and Housing has remained mute on the matter. Certainly this is not the way we ought to work and if we are serious and genuine in our efforts in moving the agricultural sector forward.
Today some District Councils across the country at their own discretion decide to charge levies as high as K7, 000/ 50kg bag of maize. This is certainly punitive to our farmers and not healthy to the sector. Therefore the need to have a harmonized council levy framework across the country is critical and a necessity.
The Union is concerned about the usage of these commodity council levies by the District Councils which are of no benefit to the farming community. We would like to see that committees are set up in all districts to monitor the usage of these funds. The Union demands that 60% of these levies be used to improve the infrastructure development such as roads in farming areas, so that farmers can see the benefit of paying these levies.
Additionally allow me to say something about the perennial problem of marketing in this country. Food Reserve Agency both as a strategic food reserve and marketing institution has proved ineffective and incapable in as far as providing marketing solutions to our farmers particularly the small scale farmers. The problems of marketing have become ancient, perennial and infinitum. Certainly time to act is now and not tomorrow to finding lasting solutions. As a Union we pledge our availability to work with all willing partners and stakeholders to join hands and resolve the problems of marketing once and for all.
Guest of Honour, I will be failing in my duties as the President of the Zambia National Farmers’ Union, if I did not recognize the commendable job the Government has done this year in making sure that inputs are delivered in the districts by August. What is now required therefore is to quickly indentify the genuine farmers through the newly established Camp Agricultural Committees and distribute the inputs to the deserving farmers. I wish therefore to call upon all the farmers in the country to work closely with the Camp Agricultural Committees and also to ensure that inputs are under FSP program are used for the intended purpose and not for sell.
To the farmers in Luapula Province, I wish to call upon you to utilize the services of your Regional Office and ensure that your issues are attended to and the same time you need to support the Regional Office so that the benefits derived from the office impact positively towards the development of agricultural sector in the province. The Union has a packaged a number of member services, which include but not limited to:-
1) Lima Credit Scheme
2) Emergent Farmers’ Program
3) ZAIN-ZNFU Project
4) Business Development Services and many others.
Please feel free to contact your Regional Office or the Head Office in Lusaka for details of these services being offered to members by your Union. I wish also to announce that the ZNFU 104th Annual Congress will be held on 14th October 2009 in Lusaka at which occasion, the ZNFU will be making major policy statements which will shape the future direction of the Union and Agricultural sector in general.
Lastly but not the least, Guest of Honour, we wish to pledge our availability to work with the Government and your office and particularly with the PACOs office. It is clear to the Union that Luapula Province will soon become the Agricultural farming belt for Zambia given the abundance of water bodies, good rainfall pattern and good soils.
Finally, I wish to thank all those who have worked and contributed to making this event a success.
Thank, Thank, Thank and God Bless you all.
ZAMBIA NATIONAL FARMERS’ UNION