Zambia’s Minister of Agriculture – Dora Siliya – has said that her ministry needs to recruit more agricultural field extension officers. The current ratio of extension officers to farmers was one against 1,000 farmers.
“The current staffing levels of extension officers inhibits us to effectively respond to the challenges of the sector,” the minister said in Lusaka.
The minister said that her ministry will request Cabinet to seek Treasury authority to engage more extension officers.
The agricultural department recently faced several stiff challenges. Subsidised government farming inputs were distributed late. Crop farmers also faced an invasion of army worms on 115,000 hectares of maize lands in six Zambian provinces. These factors have heightened concerns about a possible smaller maize harvest this year.
FOOD SECURITY UNDER THREAT
Lewis Mwape, a social development expert, said the army worms and late distribution of inputs posed a real threat to the nation’s food security.
Zambia had an estimated 1.6 million smallholder farmers who grew more than 80 percent of the national staple food. In the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons Zambia produced 3.2 million tonnes and 2.6 million tonnes of maize respectively. This is despite poor rain patterns.