LUSAKA, Jan 14 - Government and the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) have established a task force to mobilise $13.7 million by March for the expansion of irrigation farming in Zambia.
Agriculture Minister Mundia Sikatana said in Lusaka yesterday that the task force comprised economic advisor to the President, Moses Banda the ministries of Agriculture and Finance as well as the ZNFU.
The minister said this during the official opening of the national stakeholder's workshop on strategies for the development of Zambia's irrigation sector.
Mr Sikatana said the task force was formed during a ZNFU board members' meeting with President Mwanawasa on January 8 at State House where the President pledged to promote irrigation farming.
He said the irrigation expansion programme was targeted at small, medium and large-scale farmers and was expected to report back on March 30 when ZNFU would meet the Head of State again.
Mr Sikatana said Zambia's agriculture sector was under intense pressure to contribute towards poverty alleviation, food security and economic growth.
Last year the ministry had embarked on drafting an irrigation policy with technical cooperation of the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Mr Sikatana said Government's objectives to undertake the irrigation review policy was to offer opportunities for all farmers to service markets in the region.
"The overall agriculture policy is flexible and visionary and has been tailored, where possible, to remove most if not all constraints which have in the past hindered the development of agriculture," he said.
FAO country representative Dong Qingsong expressed commitment to foster cooperation with the Government in improving agriculture.
"FAO is happy that the irrigation policy has been successfully incorporated into the National Agriculture Policy and we hope the document takes a realistic look at the irrigation sub-sector in the country," he said.
Mr Qingsong called on Government to take a leadership role and ensure an enabling environment and create incentives to promote private sector investment in irrigated agriculture.
President for the National Association for Peasant and Small-Scale Farmers Rodger Phiri bemoaned the lack of infrastructure in rural areas to help promote agriculture.
Mr Phiri called on Government to ensure small scale farmers were incorporated in the enhancing of irrigation agriculture.