By Moses Kabaila Jr
THERE are two important basic needs for humanity ? food and shelter. If one had the key to these two things, life would be far much better for them and everyone around.
These two basic needs are among the important things leaders the world over are trying to give to their people with the hope of creating better nations.
Today, it is not surprising anymore to hear most people talk about venturing into farming.
Everyone seems to have opened their eyes towards 'going back to the land'. Everyone wants to go for it because its relevance cannot be over-emphasised anymore.
First Republican President Kenneth Kaunda preached on the need to go back to the land not only when one retired but because the soil, where humanity is believed to have come from, has better answers for mankind than white-collar jobs.
"The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector by which disease passes into health, age into youth, and death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life," said Wendell Berry, author of Culture and Agriculture.
If one has food and shelter, other burdens that come with life would definitely be eased by a bigger fraction.
The world as it were began with farming but along the way, man shunned the idea of farming because working with dirt seemed old-fashioned.
However, it is ironic that while that has been the case, the need to eat has never become old-fashioned.
Like Aldo Leopold said in his book titled A Sandy County Almanac: "There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm.
One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace."
If a greater part of people in this nation ventured into farming, the workload for this nation's leaders would also greatly be eased.
Whether for commercial or subsistence needs, own-food production is an important proficiency that contributes positively to the physical and financial health of every family.
One farming expert said going back to the land provides an important psychological and spiritual boost by reaffirming man's connection with nature and nature's laws, reconnecting man with his ancestral roots, and providing the feeling of competence that comes from ensuring the supply of a basic necessity?food.
Growing own food comes with a number of vital benefits such as self-sustainability and a wider choice of food one would want to eat at a particular time because it is readily available in their garden.
Just as important, the quality of food produced at home is superior to that available in the supermarket for a number of reasons.
If you get it direct from your backyard garden or field, the freshness and healthiness would definitely be richer.
Again, food experts say the demands of business drive many factors that decrease the nutritional value of commercial foods, especially those bought from international chain stores, because very little food they sell is produced near its point of use.
For example, according to research, fruit and vegetable varieties are selected on the basis of suitability for machine picking, long-distance shipping, and cold storage so that they still look good when they reach Zambia's market.
It is a known fact that most of these foods coming from outside the country are visually appealing products that look better than they taste and have considerably less nutritional value than locally-grown equivalents.
Since independence, the talk of going back to till the land has been falling on 'deaf ears' except for a few people who have been so brave and taken the chance.
For reasons unknown, people have been so comfortable with buying food from supermarkets without bothering where it comes from.
At national level, the country has mostly concentrated on copper as a major income generator for economic growth, which has proved to be fatal as the income generated largely depends on copper prices coughed up by other people and nations that do not care about the effects of the decisions they make for others.
Arising from such challenges, the idea of diversification has never been stronger than this moment because copper is failing to sustain the economy.
The only answer to this nation's over-dependence on copper, which is not doing well on the international market price controls, is to shift away from mining activities and focus more attention on agriculture.
This is the time to "walk the talk". Recently, President Edgar Lungu held meetings in Italy with the heads of the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
According to Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba, who had accompanied the President in Rome, the meetings were a demonstration of Mr Lungu's determination to see Zambia's diversification programme to its logical conclusion.
The other strides crucial to Zambia's fortification of the agriculture sector have been the installation of solar milling plants across the country that will encourage people, especially in rural areas, to step up farming activities by going commercial so as to take advantage of the recently-commissioned milling plants which would only operate if there was produce to work on.
The problem has been that the few small-scale farmers in the country who have ventured into farming as a hobby have no clear purpose in mind.
Some farmers are in farming because it is a seasonal thing to them. Their farming activity is not intended to give a reasonable return on their investments.
Some people have ventured into farming because their colleagues are also in farming.
They just grow any type of crop without clearly understanding the bigger picture of growing the crops and let alone where to take it when it is ready for harvesting.
Today, almost all the provinces and districts in Zambia have competent, experienced and easily accessible advisers at the service of farmers.
Many of the experts in cattle rearing, poultry, piggery, and crop husbandry have practical farm management experience.
With these people in place, small-scale farmers could be guided on focused farming that could bring returns on their investments.
It is time that Zambia started taking advantage of the land that it is blessed with. If a nation feeds itself, there would be less dependence on international aid.
The primary aim should be own-food production that will in turn result in lower costs and eventually exporting them at a handsome price consistent with good profits.
The Zambian economy is an important reason to produce and preserve food at home as this would add income to the country's coffers and at the same time, guarantee a supply of healthy food during lean times.
Like Mansanobu Fukuoka said, "The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings."
Source: All Africa