LUSAKA, Apr. 14 - Zambia should optimally utilise the available water bodies on a sustainable basis, principal director in the Zimbabwean ministry of agriculture and rural development Dr Regina Gato has said.
Giving an experience of the Zimbabwean situation on irrigation - based farming yesterday, Dr Gato said that country has equally not been spared by the drought situation that has hit some parts of Zambia.
She said the Zimbabwean government had since embarked on a massive rehabilitation programme of existing irrigation infrastructure as well as setting up new irrigation schemes.
Dr Gato said the Zimbabwean government had also hastened the construction of dams and boreholes, including mechanisms that allowed rain water not to go to waste, in an effort to support the concept of irrigation among small-scale farmers.
"We have also started utilising low- lying areas which retain rain water over long periods to make cropping possible throughout the year," she said.
Dr Gato said Zambia had large amounts of water bodies which, if well utilised could guarantee food security for farming communities including remote areas even during periods of drought.
"We must appreciate that our region is drought-prone and we should seriously develop irrigation systems and water conservation systems," Dr Gato said.
"Drip irrigation and other traditional methods have worked well in Zimbabwe over the years using simple requirements such as bamboo sticks. We also use earthenware pipes (mould from clay) for irrigating small gardens in rural set-ups."
Agriculture minister Mundia Sikatana could not be reached for a comment by press time.
Dr Gato said crop production systems should be diversified to optimise on the attributes of different crops and maximise on the various abilities of the crops to withstand drought.
"We must bring awareness to people to diversify even in the eating habits so that if specific crops are not available, they can eat whatever other crops that end up being successfully harvested," she said.
Some parts of Zambia especially Southern, Central, Western and some parts of Eastern and Lusaka provinces have been hit by drought, with the Zambia Meteorological Department estimating a rainfall deficit of at least 51 per cent.
The Ministry of Agriculture has estimated the food deficit as a result of the drought at about 300,000 metric tonnes.
On Saturday, Sikatana assured that the government was constantly moving maize from surplus areas to deficit areas.
Dr Gato, along with other participants in the SADC region, is in the country for a workshop on women in agriculture.
And Monica Lyimo from Tanzania urged the women in the SADC region to draw strategies that will move agriculture forward.
SADC food security training programme director Edward Chisala said the challenge of meeting the food and nutritional needs was likely to become greater in the years ahead because of a number of factors such as high population growth, constant droughts and impact of HIV and AIDS.