As the recent drought in Zambia reached into a second month, the Government predicts up to 50% crop loss for the rural villages. Unlike large commercial operations, Chilupula cannot afford to irrigate their fields. This follows last year’s bumper crop, in which the Government could not pay the farmers for their excess maize, so the villagers made little money despite the large harvest.
This demonstrates the negative outcomes when the Government sets the price of a commodity. When there is too much, the farmer can be stuck with the surplus. Or sell it for a discounted price to a middle man who sells it out of country. In lean years, farmers cannot raise the price even in times of scarcity. The only consistent fact is that the small rural farmer almost always loses.
So out hearts go out to our Coop in Chilupula as we await news of the outcome of this season. Sadly, we have not been successful in getting the Coop to look for alternative crops, mostly because of conservative ideas about farming. Perhaps some of the younger members who have turned to alternative crops might be able to make enough money this year to convince their elders.