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Harvest relief for Zambia

News that Zambia, expects to harvest more than 1.9 million tons of maize, have raised spirits in a country where most people live on less than a dollar a day.

Inflation in the Southern African nation went up from 9.8 per cent to 10.2 percent, mainly on the back of rising food prices said The Central Statistical Office. Also earlier this year, the government announced a 15 per cent rise in petrol prices, which came soon after it slapped a 10 per cent excise duty on diesel.  "Life has become tougher since the fuel prices were hiked," said John Banda, a taxi driver in the capital, Lusaka. He himself is struggling to provide for himself and his family of four, he told Reuters news service. Commuters are instead choosing to walk or use buses, because "people just don't have enough money for taxis, so ... we taxi drivers take less and less money home," he said.

Ndambo Ndambo, Executive Director of the Zambia National Farmers Union said today that harvest prospects still looked good despite long dry spells in the middle of the growing season in some areas and excessive rain in others. "We were worried last week that farmers were going to lose their crop when heavy rains fell, but now it looks like the rains have reduced. This means that the crop is safe," Ndambo said in a statement.

Zambia has about 360,000 tons of maize stored up against a national monthly food requirement of 60,000 tons. That means it has enough food in stock to last an extra six months. Early checks also showed that wheat production was up and that another surplus is predicted this farming season. Zambia was looking forward to an excess of 90,000 tons of wheat this year, which "it wants to export", Ndambo said.

And that is already starting to have a positive effect as the price of unprocessed maize has started dropping. The Food Security Update for March by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network said, "food security in the country continues to be good in most areas", with some moderately insecure patches in the south.Aids is blamed for wiping out Zambia’s highest achieving professionals - including engineers and politicians - and malaria is a major problem. The country, which is one of the poorest in the world, also hosts tens of thousands of refugees who have fled fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children