By Fulman Mukobeko and Jessie Zimba
Self Help African(SHA) Zambian Director Kalongo Chitengi has emphasised the need for farmers to diversify from maize to other crops if the country is to be fully food secure.
Named one of the most influential women in Africa, Ms Chitengi says the media plays a pivotal role in fostering development for the less privileged society in the country.
Speaking at the sideline of the Media Day and Launch of the Strategic Plan at the Intercontinental Hotel yesterday, Ms Chitengi called for the diversification of agricultural products from maize to other crops saying this key if the country is to attain food security.
She said farmers should be encouraged to grow other crops other than maize for both consumption and economic gain.
She said it is a fact that provinces that grow drought resistant crops like cassava do not face food crisis in an event that there is shortage of rains.
“Farmers should grow other crops outside maize if the country is to be food secure. We eat other food other than maize, don’t we? So our farmers must be encouraged to to grow a variety of crops,” Ms Chitengi said, ” Provinces like Western and Southern where they grow a lot of cassava are not affected with food shortages when there is drought in a given season because their Nshima is made out of cassava.”
And Ms Chitengi said the reduction of the maize floor price from K85 to K60 has disadvantaged small scale farmers in the country.
She said the maize floor price is not attractive, considering that farmers invested lot in terms of production cost.
“We think the maize floor price is very low. It could be better. We think the price is not good especially that we are an organization that is helping farmers in marketing enterprise. If prices of the commodity, in this case maize, is lower than the production cost for it discourages people from engaging into production of that commodity,” she said.
Asked whether there is a possibility that most farmers may not grow maize as a result of the low floor price, Ms Chitengi said: “No I don’t think so. Maize is a staple food farmers are going to grow it. But as I said, it is important that our farmers grow other crops outside maize.”
And Ms Chitengi urged Journalist to report on developmental stories rather than concentrating on politics.
She said Zambian media is flooded with political story while important human interest and developmental are rarely reported on.
She said the media should move a mile and report on issues that are affecting people in rural areas in an effort to foster development.
Ms Chitengi regretted that in some remote areas where the organization does its work, people live in extreme poverty but their plight are not highlighted by the media
“The media is a very necessary tool for communication. It is only through the media that policy makers can know what is going on in remote areas for them to make positive change,” she said, ” We appreciate the role the media plays. When we are right, they praise us and when we are wrong it is their job to criticize us. Like that, they help us check ourselves.”
In August 2016 Ms Chitengi was received the prestigious international honour for her role as an African leader.
She was named one of the most influential African women in business and Government, at the annual African regional Award organized by a media company CEO Global in Lusaka Zambia.
Ms Chitengi received a prestigious prize in Welfare and Civil Society category at the prestigious event.