Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has declared a ?State of Disaster? as his country continues to face severe food shortages. Zambia needs an estimated 600 thousand metric tons of food to feed about four million people faced with starvation. Mr. Mwanawasa blames the situation on insufficient rainfall during the 2000 and 2001 farming seasons, which he says worsened during the 2001-02 season.

The current food stocks are expected to be depleted by August. But the president says those stocks can only feed six million of Zambia?s ten million people. In some parts of the country the food shortage is so severe that people are relying on wild fruits to survive.

President Mwanawasa says Zambia needs to develop strategies to deal with drought, such as better irrigation and the planting winter maize. The first harvest of winter maize is expected in September. He?s also calling on farmers to adopt conservation farming methods, which include crop rotation and crop diversity. He says this would enhance Zambia?s food security.

Zambia needs 1.3 million metric tons of maize to feed the entire population. In the face of the 600-thousand ton food deficit, Mr. Mwanawasa has appealed for international help.