EIA regulations porse a threat Zambian peasant farmers
Green Party President Peter Sinkamba says that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations in the current form are a threat to food security in Zambia. He has since demanded that the Minister of Lands and Environmental Protection Jean Kapata should consider reviewing the regulations to bring them up to speed with realities on the ground.
“The EIA regulations in the current form provide that any development, including agriculture, which extends up to one hectare and above must be subjected to the rigorous approval process by ZEMA. Without the approval of such project by ZEMA, a developer commits an offence, which attracts serious penalties.
“Now, at the moment, we have over five million peasant and small scale farmers across the country, that collectively produce over 70 per cent of the maize in Zambia. These have farm plots that extend from one hectare to about ten hectares. Since time immemorial, they have been carrying out their agricultural activities without EIA approval. In short, since the EIA regulations were enacted in 1997, peasant and small-scale farmers have been carrying out their farming activities illegally. According to EIA regulations, SI 27 of 1997, these farmers must stop their agricultural activities or they risk being penalized by ZEMA. And if they stop their agricultural activities, then it means that more than 70 per cent of the maize will not be produced in Zambia. This scenario will result in serious food insecurity in the country,” Mr. Sinkamba said.
He added that according to the regulations, in addition to hiring environmental experts to prepare the EIA reports, the peasants and small-scale farmers are, like all other industries, expected to pay ZEMA about K14, 000.00 fees for review of the reports.
“Think of this: these farmers we are talking about can not even afford to pay for fertilizer and seed. Government buys for them these things through FISP. So, where do you expect them to find money to hire environmental experts to prepare EIA reports? And where are they going to find the K14, 000.00 to pay ZEMA for review of the EIA reports?
“In any case, ZEMA has a handful of employees, very, very few indeed. Even if hypothetically we assume that the peasant farmers and small-scale farmers had financial capacity to hire environmental experts, and pay to ZEMA the K14, 000.00 review fees, is it really feasible for ZEMA to review five million EIA reports? What would be the timeframe for ZEMA to do so?
“And mind you, the EIA regulations require that each time a developer makes and extension to the approved hectares, then a fresh approval must be made by ZEMA. This means rehiring environmental experts and repaying EIA reports review fees to ZEMA. Now, frankly speaking, is this feasible? Mr. Sinkamba queried.
He said it is useless to keep on the statutes laws that cannot be implemented. He has suggested a complete overhaul of the regulations to bring them to speed with realities on the ground, especially as relates to the agricultural sector.
“You see, our country is in dire straits. The mines are in some instances underperforming, and in other instances, closing. There is a serious food crisis in the country. With the advent of Covid-19, the economic woes will exacerbate. This implies that we need to rethink the way we do things. We need to rethink the relevance and feasibility of the laws on our statute books. Otherwise, it is pointless to have laws whereby 70 per cent of the population is in breach. Keeping such laws means there is something wrong with our grey matter up there,” Mr. Sinkamba said.
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