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Monday, 3 February, 2003, 15:33 GMT
Zambia wants farmers to fight famine
A village in Zambia
Despite the lush appearance, Zambians are hungry
The Zambian Government is trying to attract new investment in farming in order to raise food production.

White farmers have shown their commitment to land in Zimbabwe, and we feel that Zambia could gain from their professionalism

Government official
A total of 90,000 hectares of land are to be allocated to commercial farmers with capital to start work immediately.

More than two million people are in need of food aid in Zambia because of the severe drought which has caused total crop failure in the south of the country.

Some 14,4 million people face critical food shortages across southern Africa as a result of the drought.

'Lazy farmers'

The land will be divided into plots of 1,000ha for farmers to grow maize, fresh vegetables, fruit, flowers, coffee and tobacco, according to agriculture ministry officials quoted by Reuters news agency.

A child and his dog (Photo: IFRC)
There are not enough resources to help Zambia's orphans

"If an investor wants 10,000ha and can show that they have the capacity to till it, we shall give it to them," Deputy Finance Minister Patrick Kalifungwa said.

"The idea is to ensure that we start putting all our land to proper use."

Less than 10% of Zambia's arable land is utilised, Reuters says, in spite of the fact that it has five rivers and a high water table ideal for irrigation farming.

Most Zambians live in urban areas, in contrast to many African countries which remain largely rural.

Late last year, Zambia's Agriculture Minister Mundia Sikatana, accused farmers of causing the food shortages through laziness.

"We must feel ashamed. It's not the issue of the drought, it's ourselves. It is because we're not working hard. I have told my own people, we are lazy," he said.

'Professionalism'

Officials said that the government hoped some of Zimbabwe's white farmers whose land has been seized for blacks by President Robert Mugabe would show an interest in the scheme.

More than 130 Zimbabwean white farmers have bought land in Zambia.

Looted farm in Zimbabwe
Many white farmers have left Zimbabwe

"White farmers have shown their commitment to land in Zimbabwe, and we feel that Zambia could gain from their professionalism," a senior government official said.

Other white Zimbabwean farmers have leased land in Mozambique.

In addition to those facing famine in southern Africa, another 15 million people need food aid in the Horn of Africa this year, along with hundreds of thousands in the Sahel region of West Africa.

In addition to drought, other factors are at work, including: armed conflict, corruption and the mismanagement of food supplies, environmental degradation, trade policies that harm African agriculture and the long-term economic effects of Aids.


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