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Zambia says working on ways to revamp limping railway firm  

LUSAKA, (Xinhua) -- The Zambian government is working on ways to revamp a state-run railway firm facing challenges, Minister of Transport and Communications Brian Mushimba said on Monday.

Zambia Railways Limited has been limping for easy transportation of heavy goods, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation quoted the minister as saying at a forum organized by the ruling Patriotic Front (PF).

The move, Mushimba said, was part of overall government plans to move transportation of heavy cargo from road to rail by 2030.

Last week, the government issued a statutory instrument in which all transporters of heavy and bulk goods will be compelled to transport about 30 percent of their cargo on rail by next month.

The decision was also meant to prevent road damage caused by heavy cargo and to cut road maintenance costs.



Zambia pledges to continue with open policy for refugees

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- The Zambian government said on Friday that it will continue with its open door policy of hosting people seeking sanctuary after running away from civil unrest in their countries.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Malanji said the government has been implementing an open door asylum policy which has enabled thousands of asylum seekers and refugees to seek sanctuary in the country.

While acknowledging the security concerns and economic strains of hosting thousands of refugees, the Zambian minister said the country feels duty bound to open its doors in the spirit of sharing the burden such people undergo.

“Even though the numbers hosted by Zambia from 1966 to date are small compared to other countries due to the conflict in some of Africa, the country stands ready to share its experiences and best practices with other countries,” he said when he made an intervention on a report of the Political and Humanitarian situation in Africa during the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union (AU) in Addis, Ababa, Ethiopia, according to a statement released by the Zambian Embassy in that country.

He emphasized the need for the international community to address the peace and security situation in Africa and called on the AU to support countries that were hosting refugees at the expense of providing services to their citizens.

Currently, Zambia hosts about 63,809 refugees and persons of concerns, mostly from the Great Lakes Region.

On the other hand, other former refugees have opted to remain in Zambia under a local integration program, with about 15,000 expected to benefit from the program.


Zambia January inflation rises to 6.2 percent

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- Zambia’s inflation rose to 6.2 percent year-on-year in January, its statistics agency said Thursday.

The annual inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, increased in January from 6.1 percent recorded in December, according to the Central Statistical Office (CSO).

John Kalumbi, director of the statics agency, attributed the rise to increases in food and non-food items.

The month-on-month inflation also increased from 0.7 percent in December to 1.0 percent in January, he said during a press briefing.


Zambia sees drop in copper exports in December

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- Zambia, Africa’s second largest producer of copper, saw the volume of exports of the red metal dropping in December, its statistics agency said Thursday.

The volume of copper exports decreased by 0.9 percent from 100,585.3 tonnes in November 2017 to 99,645.0 tonnes in December, the Central Statistical Office (CSO) said.

The southern African nation produced 770,597 tonnes of copper in 2016, an increase from 710,860 tons produced in 2015. The government had projected to produce 850,000 tonnes last year and 1 million tonnes this year.


Can investing in irrigation unlock Zambia’s agricultural potential?

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- The potential of Zambia’s agricultural sector cannot be over-emphasized as the southern African nation has abundant arable land and fresh water resources which have not be fully exploited.

According to government figures, only 15 percent of Zambia’s arable land is under cultivation and despite the country accounting for about 35 percent of the fresh water in the southern African region, irrigation only accounts for 6 percent of the agriculture sector.

However, with the changes in weather patterns caused by climate change, experts are urging the authorities to invest in irrigation instead of depending on rain-fed agriculture.

For instance, the 2017/2018 has already suffered following prolonged dry spells in some parts of the country, with crop production expected to plummet.

According to country’s meteorological body, the Zambia Meteorological Department, five of the country’ 10 province are experiencing stress in maize crops due to lack of sufficient soil moisture induced by tropical cyclone Ava.

According to a report, the meteorological body says Lusaka, Western, Southern, southern parts of Central and Eastern Provinces have recorded below-normal rainfall from January 1 due to the tropical cyclone.

The insufficient amounts of soil moisture may cause stress and wilting in maize crops, it added.

The Zambia National farmers Union (ZNFU) is an association representing farmers and is already worried with the current dry spells as well as late delivery of farming inputs and an outbreak of fall army worms.

The association has already predicted a 50-percent drop in maize production in the 2017/2018 farming season due to the dry spell.

Calvin Kaleyi, the association’s spokesperson said this was so because the affected provinces were the major producers of maize.

“The crop is wilting and this is very bad because it has hit the maize belts,” he said.

Zambia has witnessed bumper harvests of maize, its staple crop, in recent seasons, with the country producing 3.6 million tons of the cereal crop in the 2016/2017 season from 2.8 million tons produced in the previous season.

But analysts believe that it was time the country seriously consider massive investments in irrigation farming in order to have all-round production following the unpredictable weather pattern.

Chance Kabaghe, executive director of the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (APRI), a local agricultural think-tank, said it is high time stakeholders took practical steps in investing heavily in irrigation farming, saying depending on rain-fed agriculture was the thing of the past.

Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya has pledged government’s commitment to invest in irrigation as a way to boost agricultural production.

The government, she said, intends to increase investment in harvesting rain-water and construction of more dams to reduce dependence on rain-fed agriculture after poor rains experienced in some parts of the country.

According to her, dams will have to be constructed throughout the country in order to reduce dependence on rain-fed agriculture.

“There are about 600,000 smallholder farmers who produce most of the country’s cassava, cotton, millet, and sorghum, as well as over 90 percent of its maize,” she said when she addressed a group of investors in Germany during the 10th Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Germany.

“Because these farmers generally do not have modern irrigation systems, production is largely rain-fed, making crops highly vulnerable to fluctuation in rainfall,” said Siliya.



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