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Caritas Zambia Urges New Government to Adopt Agroecology “urgently and progressively”

The Logo of Caritas Zambia. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The leadership of Caritas Zambia has called on the country’s new President to “urgently and progressively” take initiative aimed at adopting farming techniques that are environmentally friendly in the Southern African nation. 

In a statement issued Thursday, August 26, officials of the development and humanitarian arm of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) also urge President Hakainde Hichilema to ensure press freedom and enactment of policies that safeguard minors. 

“We urge you to urgently and progressively move towards agroecology. We should adopt agroecology principles for a sustainable food system and for climate change adaptation,” Caritas Zambia officials say. 

Embracing agroecology, they add, “will help to make a shift from chemical intensive industrial agriculture to ecologically intensive organic farming, with fantastic benefits for small scale farmers.”

Caritas Zambia officials note that the current practice of using chemicals to sustain agriculture “is not only expensive but has the potential to destroy the soils.” 

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Agroecology, they further say, “is cheap and crops grown from organic manure are far more superior in nutrition content than crops grown with the use of chemical fertilizers.”

Officials of Caritas Zambia also emphasize the need for the government to introduce “a policy and legal framework that protects indigenous seed and food systems.”

“The right of farmers to grow and share a variety of indigenous seed should not be taken away by some of the laws that are being pushed by multinational companies and other powerful people. These seeds belong to our famers and they have been passed on from generation to generation, given to them by God himself,” they say. 

They also express concern about the Farmers Support Program (FISP) saying it “has not fully benefited the small-scale farmers because huge profits are made by the big companies and middle persons dealing in the very inputs meant for the farmers.”

As a way forward, Caritas Zambia officials urge the country’s new leadership to finalize the draft national seed policy of 1999, which would regulate the agricultural sector. 

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“We hope to see a decentralized consultative process to this process and the effective recognition of farmer’s rights and your government support to farmer managed seed systems through policy changes to reduce restrictions during trade, as currently trade can’t go beyond achieving economic benefits,” Caritas officials say. 

They also call on President Hichilema’s government to implement the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security “where 10% of the budget allocation should go to Agriculture.”

They further ask the Zambian President to “consider reducing FISP budget allocation and reallocate more funds towards extension services and other agriculture needs that enhance farmer resilience to Climate Change.”

Caritas Zambia officials also emphasize the need for the country to “revive the agriculture sector and move away from completely depending on mining.”

“To draw more people in agriculture we must promote and empower small scale farmers,” they say, adding, “The concept of large-scale farming, hoping that many people would be employed as laborers, does very little to substantively improve the quality and quantity of employment and the idea of decent work.” 

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They continue, “Decent jobs require the promotion of entrepreneurs in agriculture and this points to the growth of small-scale farmers who are able to improve their livelihoods through farming in a way that is sensitive to the needs of the environment.”

In the August 26 statement, officials of the ZCCB entity note “with great concern the accelerated pace at which the outgoing government was moving to issue titles through the National Land Titling Program (NLTP).”

They note that “the program, which was driven by the desire to increase government revenue from land transactions started without the cover of a national land policy that should in essence have provided guidelines for the excursion of such an important undertaking in the history of this country.”

“Tilting all land in Zambia means, converting all customary land into leasehold. This has the effect of reducing areas available to the poor people under customary tenure and will effectively mean that Zambia will only have one tenure system thereby killing Zambia’s cultural heritage and all the existing villages and Chiefdoms,” they say.

They add, “The wiping out of villages from customary land, which is already happening at the moment, will create identity crises for many people in Zambia. In fact, this is a recipe for civil war.”

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Caritas Zambia officials say they are concerned about customary land “because that is where the poor have hope of retaining their dignity.”

They, therefore, call on the new government to “work with the royal highness and CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) to safeguard customary land and its tenure system.”

Officials of Caritas Zambia also call upon the new parliament to enact the Child Code Bill so as to enhance the protection of minors and “address the inconsistencies in the legal frameworks around child protection.”  

“This has been overdue, there is no need to hold on to this bill any longer,” officials of the development and humanitarian arm of the Catholic Bishops in Zambia say.

 They urge the government to “guarantee press freedom through policy, legislative changes and in practice.”

“Mr. President, the access to information bill has been pending for more than 10 years. Zambia needs this Bill to be enacted into law because it will enhance democracy through the promotion of transparency and accountability,” they say and urge the new leadership not to use existing laws and policies to intimidate and gag the media. 

The Caritas officials in the Southern African nation also express concerns about the previous government’s failure to be transparent about the country’s debt crisis and urge the new leadership to be open about it. 

“It is important for the Zambian people to know the nature of the debt and how much it is. Parliament has over the years been side-lined in debt contraction,” they say, and reiterate, “Zambians need order, transparency and accountability in the manner debt is contracted and used in the country. Parliament should have a major role in this aspect.”