Monday, 31 December 2012

The Close of the Year 2012

The Close of the Year 2012

After two weeks of sporadic shortages of mealie meal, our staple, as Government and millers negotiated over price, some millers have finally agreed to print a recommended retail price on bags (K50 000/GBP6/US$10). It is surprising that Zambian Governments in a less developed country have not been more statist on this, as France only decontrolled the price of bread a little over a decade ago.

This measure has been achieved by appealing to milling companies to reduce their prices after a sharp rise recently. The floor price for the purchase Food Reserve Agency maize was K65 000 for 50kg, this was sold on to the millers for K60 000, in effect a K5 000 subsidy. 

This is another pro-poor policy which contrasts with the austerity programme and attack on universalism by neo-liberal governments in the more developed world. Zambia has managed to attain a growth rate of 7% up from 6% last year.

Substantial investment has been made in the country’s infrastructure, with shovel ready projects, in education, health and mining sectors, while inflation is kept reasonably low. No either/or but both here!!

This positive and continuous improvement has led to some improved social and economic development.

Finally the country has been plagued by an infestation of army worms in many places which could compromise food security if left undealt with. Army worms, also known as cut worms, travel in armies and consume newly germinated maize and grass. Cypermethrin is apparently the spray of choice.

Armyworms and cutworms are actually caterpillars or immature moths that feed on grass leaves and stems, chewing off young plants just above the ground. Mature females moths then lay eggs, on grass which the hatched caterpillars feed on. From the TV pictures seen, it looks quite like the variegated cutworm but I have not heard an etymologic identification made.

The larvae were dark brown in color with yellow stripes. The adult moths were yellowish-brown with black dots along the wings. Mated females can lay more than 1200 eggs in less than 10 days, and eggs are generally attached to the leaf blades or weeds plants. The pupae hibernate and the insect can produce four generations per year, depending on the climatic conditions. The life cycle lasts about 60 days.

Government and UN have helped to supply spray and seed to re-sow areas affected with early maturing varieties so that the harvest is as little affected as possible.

Over this weekend we move towards the nativity and incarnation. Living in the present but hoping for the future, with the coming of Christ, the Child, Messiah and Light of the World.

We continue to pray for rain and a good harvest here in Mwandi. The showers so far have mainly been soft and gentle. The people have cleared their fields and many are now ploughing and sowing maize, pumpkin and groundnuts. Some army/cut worm has been reported. The open-billed storks and egrets have arrived, signs of the coming of the rains.

There is some malnutrition amongst people as for many the last of last year’s harvest has finished and the new maize will not be ready to harvest for another 3 or 4 months.

So, wherever we are this Christmas and whoever we are with, we would ask you to remember the needs of friends and people in different parts of the world and especially the Christian Community in Bethlehem and the Holy Land and those celebrating in difficult circumstances.

Wishing you every blessing  with a joyful Christmas and a good New Year.

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