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HOW CAN ZAMBIA IMPROVE PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO FOOD?

April 17, 2020

By KELVIN MBEWE

A Zambian woman poses for a photo holding produce cultivated on the Jesuit-run Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre. The center promotes organic, ecologically sustainable, no-till farming for small-scale farmers. (CNS photo courtesy Canadian Jesuits International) See ZAMBIA-FARMS Sept. 5, 2014.

The current Zambian government under the leadership of Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu has on several occasions said that they will not allow ‘any Zambian to die of hunger’ despite some parts of the country experiencing droughts which have led to food shortages.

And as we are all aware that access to food is a basic human right.   Of course there are natural contributing factors to this predicament such as climate change which has left a lot of farmers in a difficult position but there are also some man made contributing factors that ought to be resolved to improve the hunger situation in the country.

Having traveled a lot around the country and interacted with parties concerned with the hunger situation in Zambia, it is clear that some of the hindrances to access to food in this country are man made.

Among the reasons are challenges in access to land, weak resettlement policies, gender based violence, weak agricultural policies, lack of accountability by the powers that be(government) among other reasons.

The question is how do the above mentioned factors hinder acces to food and contribute to hunger in the country?
For example displacements.

As the country is witnessing development most indigenous Zambian families have been evicted from places where their access to food relies on and have been made to start afresh under difficult conditions.

A good example is a scenario in Mpongwe district where a named multi national company has evicted some families from their land which they acquired from their traditional leader to pave way for some expansions by the company.
These families had big fields for cultivation, enough grazing land for their animals and so on.

Not anymore, they are now scattered around Mpongwe where they are renting fields and places to keep their animals.
Can you imagine how their access to food has been tempered with?

I interacted with some of them and they are so disturbed as some of their animals have died, their produce has been affected and their incomes have dwindled.

Their cost of living has skyrocketed as they now have to pay for what they where acquiring for free.
If only a stronger resettlement policy was enshrined in the Zambian constitution this would not have been the case. 

Currently no violations of the right to food can be taken to court.
According to them they where only given 32 bags of maize per hectare while their houses where demolished.

Normally an hectare is supposed to produce a minimum of 50 bags of maize and a maximum of 100 bags.
Moving on to how weak agricultural policies and people’s mindsets are affecting access to food in Zambia.

By this I mean most Zambians have a mindset of growing only maize to sustain their livelihood. This means that if maize does not grow accordingly then the access to food is affected.Another man made contribution to hunger in the country is the lack of accountability from some government bodies that have been given the responsibility of improving the welfare of the underprivileged.A good example is the social welfare scandal, irresponsiveness that was highlighted in this has a direct negative impact to access to food.
And when it comes to good agricultural policies, I feel that the government has not done much to educate people to diversify to other crops such as groundnuts, beans among others.

If only Zambia can address the outlined challenges the country will greatly improve access to food rise above being ranked firth hungriest country in the world.And Zambia voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. This gives the country the obligation to look into the welfare of the peasants and people working in rural areas.

The UN Declaration aims to better protect the rights of all rural populations including peasants, fisher folks, nomads, agricultural workers and indigenous peoples and to improve living conditions, as well as to strengthen food sovereignty, the fight against climate change and the conservation of biodiversity. The endorsement of the UN Declaration also constitutes an important contribution to the international community’s effort to promote family farming and peasant agriculture.

It is somehow disheartening to see Non governmental organizations such as Food First Information Network(FIAN) take up governments role of looking into the plight of Zambians.
FIAN international has taken the responsibility of fighting for some displaced Zambians who have been unfairly treated by some named multi national companies. 

The organization has negotiated for better resettlement conditions for the affected families and in other cases still fighting for others.

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