Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) has observed that the need to urgently address poverty by the current patriotic front government is acute in rural areas as evidenced by the exclusion from economic opportunities that the rural populations face.
According to national statistics, a significantly high percentage of households at 77.9percent are living in extreme poverty and still remain dependant on agriculture as their main source of livelihood.
JCTR Social Conditions Programme Officer, Sosten Banda says Government should prioritize, accelerate and intensify its development efforts through targeted, clear and consistent policies that will ensure sustained rural development in Zambia.
According to Mr. Banda, the JCTR rural Basket which has been in use for the last 4 years continues to show that rural development is being held back by widespread poverty.
Mr. Banda adds that it is hence imperative that Government develops targeted, consistent and clear policy frameworks that allow the rural poor realize economic opportunities that empower them to leap out of poverty in a more sustainable and coordinated manner.
He says the 2012 JCTR first quarter Rural Basket findings indicate serious failure by most households to meet minimum nutritional requirements, with the average energy intake in this quarter for most households being approximately 1000kilocalories, a fall way below the WHO recommended 2400kilocalorie daily threshold for a rural population.
Additionally, Mr. Banda says despite a bumper harvest in most of the surveyed areas, household food insecurity is considerably high with many households selling almost all their agricultural produce at once in order to meet other basic needs.
He says approximately 60% of households failed to meet the cost of essential non-food items like bathing soap and lotion while access to financial services is also a challenge with limited accessibility to banks, financial institutions or products that meet the needs of these rural people.
The JCTR social conditions programme officer has observed that there are compounding factors which greatly compromise the overall household food security situation in rural areas which include access to all weather roads which is a pre-requisite for rural development.
He says the lack of such roads increases a variety of costs from obtaining inputs to transporting goods to market to finding buyers and this tends to exclude the majority poor from getting better prices for their produce.
Mr. Banda says in view of the above developments, JCTR recognizes that in as much as the economic performance is impressive, there should be targeted clear and consistent policies that ensure that rural development challenges, such as road access are addressed comprehensively in order respond to other broader challenges like unemployment in rural areas.
Furthermore, Mr. Banda has advised that the private sector like banks and other financial service providers should consider investing more in rural areas and provide affordable financial products to farmers and other key players in rural development.
Additionally, he has also advised that Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) should be strengthened at all levels with a clear focus on improving economic opportunities for the poor and consequently address factors furthering poverty and household food insecurity in Zambia.