By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
THE Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) has called for investment in irrigation farming to enable Zambia produce surplus agricultural products following the prolonged dry spells the country has been experiencing.
CTPD head of programmes and research, Brian Mwiinga, said irrigation was important for its protective role of insurance against the vagaries of rainfall and drought.
Mr Mwiinga said irrigation farming was highly recommended with the unpredictability of rainfed agriculture in Zambia. He said this in Lusaka.
“At a time, such as this one when the country is grappling with low levels of crop productivity and yields due to prolonged dry spells, the country can exploit the potential that lies in irrigation farming to produce surplus agricultural products.
“The benefits of irrigation farming are many and varied. At the barest minimum, it increases crop yield. It protects from famine. It helps to cultivate superior crops with the water supply as per need of the crops,” he said.
Mr Mwiinga also said irrigation helped in economic development. Irrigation water, he explained, increased the water content of plant fibres, dissolved nutrients and made them available to plants. He said Zambia had a ripe market for all its agricultural commodities in its eight neighbouring countries.
Mr Mwiinga said the Democratic Republic of Congo provided a ready market for Zambian products, but was not being satisfied due to several limitations.
“In Zambia, the major crops grown in Zambia which include maize, cassava sugar, tobacco, cotton, rice, soybeans, groundnuts, wheat, and sweet potatoes and a wide range of horticultural products are mostly rain fed with very minimal irrigation in isolated incidences.
“The downside of this rain fed agricultural production systems is that rainfall patterns have become very unpredictable thus affecting agricultural productivity in the country,” he said.