From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency P. Enock Kavindele (Vice-President of the Republic of Zambia)

Please allow me to thank the Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for having convened this Summit. Indeed, after five years when the last Summit was held it is important to reflect on the progress made in realizing the commitments made in 1996.

Mr Chairman, let me begin by stating the status of the agriculture sector in Zambia. After last year's elections which ushered in a new government, agriculture has been placed at a centre stage of our economic development policy. It is our commitment that the agriculture sector should ensure that we attain food security at both national and household levels and that the sector should play a leading role in terms of employment generation and poverty reduction.

Zambia has the resources: land, water and the people to develop the agriculture sector and to achieve the objective of food security. The major focus would thus be to revamp the agricultural sector which has over the years declined. To demonstrate the seriousness that my Government attaches to agriculture, the budgetary allocation to this sector has increased from 1.62 percent last year to 4.07 percent this year. The main components of the budget are agricultural inputs; provision; crop marketing; infrastructure development; irrigation; animal disease control; outgrower schemes and fisheries development. The budgetary allocation mostly targets small-scale farmers who are usually food insecure but have very low incomes and need government support.

Mr Chairman, as Zambia is the current Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), allow me to comment on the state of the food security situation, particularly in southern Africa. We all know that a number of countries in the southern African region, including my country, are facing acute food shortages arising from severe drought. It is estimated that the regional food deficit is in the order of 3.6 million tonnes and that up to 10 million people are at risk over starvation.

The food security situation is made worse by the fact that very few countries in the region have surplus food crop production, this means that the affected countries will have to look beyond the region to source their food needs.

Mr Chairman, adverse weather conditions in the region have become a persistent cycle over the years. Therefore, countries in the region need to develop strategies that will help deal with the problem. Such strategies could include the production of food crops using irrigation during the off rain season; adoption of good farming practices such as conservation farming methods and crop rotation.

Zambia would like to take this opportunity to make an earnest appeal to the international community to come to the aid of the region to supplement the efforts of the affected countries.

Mr Chairman, in Zambia it has been established that the 2001-2002 agriculture season production of our staple food, maize, is 606 000 metric tonnes compared with total maize requirements of 1 300 000 metric tonnes. This outcome has led my Government to declare a national disaster with regard to the food insecurity situation. I wish to appeal to the international community to come to our assistance in this time of need.

Mr Chairman, let me now turn to my country's position with regard to the achievement of the seven commitments of the World Food Summit of 1996. Chairman, the political landscape in my country and indeed of the African continent has, over the past decade, changed from single party systems to pluralistic systems based on democratic governance and the rule of law. We all recognize that stable political systems are a prerequisite for stable social systems and economic development. However, some of the countries in our regions have, over the past years, been embroiled in conflict. This situation has resulted in an influx of refugees into Zambia which in turn constrains our capacity in terms of resource allocation, including production or/and access to food. My Government is fully committed to the regional efforts to resolve conflict peacefully. The recent events in the Republic of Angola and, to some extent, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are encouraging and it is our sincere hope that peace will soon prevail in these countries.

Zambia has implemented economic reforms that entail minimizing the role of government in economic affairs and ensuring that the private sector plays a leading role in all economic sectors. The country has made tremendous efforts in privatising state-owned enterprises as well as encouraging commercialisation of government activities. Zambia is committed to ensuring a political, social and economic environment for the eradication of poverty and for durable peace. This commitment is indeed the heart of the new partnership for African development, NEPAD.

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