Focus on Members of Parliament:CHRISTINE CHISHA, Lusaka
AFTER visiting Lake Bangweulu, a visitor wrote in a review on Trip Advisor, the world’s largest travel site, that it is without any doubt Zambia’s best beach.
“The place is very suitable for romantic getaways, business team building activities as well as family come-together and of course not forgetting reunions,” they wrote. “Nice fresh fish too.” That is what Samfya is all about, and it is in Samfya that you find Bangweulu Constituency. But for all that the area is endowed with, you still find high poverty levels a challenge. Bangweulu Constituency, with a population of around 220,000, is located right in the heart of Samfya. It is home to Lake Bangweulu and is surrounded by several wetlands and has best rains and good weather, all conducive for mass tourism, agriculture and livestock investments. That is why many people wonder why an area blessed with beautiful and colourful natural sceneries like lakes, swamps, lagoons and islands could be wallowing in poverty. It is something area Member of Parliament Antony Kasandwe wants to address. They have come up with a four-year development plan for the constituency, which boasts nine wards. The four-year development plan responds directly to high unemployment, low incomes and consequently high poverty levels in the area. Among the sectors that the area MP has put priority on in the development plan are tourism, agriculture, energy, health and education. In the area of tourism, Samfya has the best whitest sandy beach with a stretch of 100 kilometres, best clean water, evergreen environment, attractive birds, animals, natural forests, beautiful vegetation and friendly people. The area is quite ideal for various water games. The sparkling white sand beaches are a perfect precursor for beach fun fair activities. All this makes Samfya the best destination for immediate investment in tourism. Mr Kasandwe says Samfya is also famous for the traditional and cultural music popularly known as kalindula and kalela. These two genres of music will be enhanced as a way of promoting and preserving the cultural heritage of the people of Samfya. The MP says a well-coordinated tourism investment in Samfya will directly and positively contribute to the wealth and job creation as well improving living standards while reducing poverty among the people of Bangweulu as it becomes a major tourist destination. In the agriculture sector, Mr Kasandwe believes that the sector could be used as a spring board for improving livelihoods by boosting production and enhancing productivity. He says he will be encouraging residents to grow other crops other than concentrating on maize, which some local politician describes as a poor man’s crop. The whole of Samfya district has a population of just over 3000 cattle and Bangweulu constituency has even a smaller number including very few goats, sheep and chickens. Yet, the area is animal disease free. To develop the agriculture sector in Bangweulu Constituency, they intend to develop commercial agro crops farms and out-grower schemes for all the wards. Mr Kasandwe, together with his development committee, has also got plans to develop a processing plant for crops, livestock as well as setting up cold storage facilities. To provide quality water to include that for garden development, the MP has identified four areas in his constituency namely Chinsanka, Kasanka, Mpata and Kapata as sources of water. In the education sector, the goal of the MP and the development committee is to develop four zonal areas that will see the construction of four secondary schools in the constituency. In tertiary education, they have plans to construct an agriculture training centre which they expect to produce a number of skilled people in the area that will result in job creation and productivity. They have also prioritised the energy sector. Mr Kasandwe says Samfya district is at the tail of the Zesco grid and suffers frequent outages. He is lobbying Zesco to increase power supply in the area. But in order to make the development plan work, Mr Kasandwe says there is need for human resource development to drive and implement key activities. He says the Bangweulu Development Expansion Trust will be responsible for the implementation of the integrated plan as well as mobilising resources from various stakeholders. Mr Kasandwe says the Trust shall lobby for financial support in the implementation of the various programmes. He believes that Bangweulu constituency will attain this by making households productive in agriculture, livestock, fisheries, forestry and tourism. The MP, who is a philosopher and development expert, says the methodology and model development will systematically focus on the household productivity with participation coupled with research and development, innovation and mass production. Mr Kasandwe says the development challenges in Bangweulu constituency are daunting and it is easy to feel hopeless. However, he says: “We do not shrink from challenges – instead we embrace and solve them.”