The government’s plan to lease land in Zambia to produce maize to supplement local supply has received conditional support from parliament, seven months after it expressed the interest.

Parliamentary Agriculture Committee confirmed that the declared idea is valid and achievable but only if the government agrees to support the private sector to undertake it instead of pursuing it alone.

“Even locally the government is a facilitator in maize production and thus cannot purport to undertake production of the same in Zambia. The best option is to allow private sector lease and seek the produce locally to ease shortage at any given time,” said John Mutunga, the Committee chairman.

Last week, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi said the intention is still on and the government is working on a structured arrangement to ensure the same is actualised.

In a phone interview, Mutunga confirmed that indeed his team together with other members of parliament was in Zambia two weeks ago to attend an African Union (AU) sponsored agriculture meeting.

“And during the meeting, authorities from the Zambia Government shared a convincing presentation in one of the sessions which confirmed that foreigners are allowed to take up land and grow maize,” he said.

The Zambia government the legislator insisted has already developed a mechanism that allows other countries to exploit its land for food production.

Private sector

“The authorities did confirm Kenya has expressed interest in leasing land to grow food to feed her population. The idea is viable and achievable especially if the Kenya government decides to facilitate the private sector to produce maize on behalf of the state.

Zambia, he added is endowed with a huge chunk and fertile unexploited land coupled with a low population and thus offers a better opportunity for Kenya to tap to produce more food to feed the population.  The cost of production in Zambia, Mutunga confirmed is equally low compared to Kenya.