ALVIN CHIINGA, Siavonga
THE arrival for both local and foreign tourists have quadrupled in Siavonga district and nearby tourist destinations over the years especially after the completion of about 132 kilometres of the Bottom Road which runs from Siavonga to Munyumbwe.”
These are words of Siavonga district commissioner, Lovemore Kanyama which were echoed by several stakeholders in the district recently.
The Bottom Road begins from Siavonga and passes through Gwembe, Sinazongwe districts and is supposed to end-up in Livingstone in Chief Mukuni’s area.
Just like Mr Kanyama says, the completed part of the Bottom Road has turned Siavonga district and nearby tourist attractions such as In’gombe Ilede in Lusitu into a beehive of activity.
This, according to stakeholders has come with myriad developmental benefits which include investments in sectors such as agriculture and the fishing industry.
Mr Kanyama says investors in the fishing industry have come to Siavonga district citing good road infrastructure which has opened up the district unlike was the situation before.
“Now, we have two newly- launched huge fish feed plants in Siavonga which are supporting not only fish farming but they are also buying maize from farmers,” Mr Kanyama said.
In the tourism sector, the completion of the Bottom Road has also seen the revival of some traditional ceremonies of people living in the Gwembe Valley, all due to easy movement of the people.
The Kalendele Lwiindi ceremony is one of the ceremonies which has been revived in Chief Sinadambwe’s area.
Since its revival, multitudes of people annually traverse the Gwembe Valley, some as far as from Chief Chipepo’s area to come and witness the ceremony in September.
This is all because of the Bottom Road that has connected the area and makes it possible for the people to celebrate their cultural heritage through the ceremony.
Sebulu Mweemba of Hambabala village who is a small-scale farmer from Chief Chipepo’s area was spotted at this years’ Kalendele Lwiindi traditional ceremony a fortnight ago.
Mr Mweemba said in the past years, people in Chief Chipepo could not manage to travel to Siavonga district and be part of the traditional ceremony due to impassable roads.
He however, said that after the construction of the Bottom Road, several people are now able to attend the ceremony.
“I am 67 years old and I feel that promoting cultural heritage is important and this has been made easier through the completion of the first part of the Bottom Road by Government,” a visibly- elated Mr Mweemba said at Sinadambwe grounds, the venue of the Lwiindi ceremony.
Chief Sinadambwe could not mince his words when he made his remarks during the ceremony over what the construction of the Bottom Road has done.
He said that the benefits of the construction of the Bottom Road cannot be over emphasised as his subjects still cannot believe seeing a tarred road meander through their villages near to their doorsteps.
Chief Sinadambwe however, said the construction of the Bottom Road should be complimented by rehabilitation of feeder roads.
“The Bottom Road is helping my people a lot but I am appealing to Government to also look at feeder roads in the chiefdom such as the Chaanga – Chikankata road,” he said.
The completed 132 kilometres stretch Bottom Road also managed to attract Minister of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs Lawrence Sichalwe to attend this years’ Kalendele Lwiindi traditional ceremony, much to the delight of the villagers who braved the scorching sun.
Apart from a boost in the tourism sector, the Bottom Road is also making significant contributions towards the health and education sector.
Malambo Sinadambwe, a teacher at Sinadambwe Basic School said civil servants like him can now afford a smile.
Mr Sinadambwe said years before the construction of the road, places like where he is working from were no go areas for the weak-hearted.
“Teachers and health workers such as nurses were abandoning this area one month down the line because this place was hard to reach,” he said.
Mr Sinadambwe said the teachers would report for work at a given school and would not return after getting their first salaries.
He said this contributed greatly to illiteracy in most communities in Gwembe valley.
In the health sector, Mr Kanyama said there is a quick response now from health practioners for those that need emergency services.
He said there is a huge reduction of maternal deaths in the district as pregnant women about to deliver are usually rushed from health posts to either Mtendere Mission Hospital in Chirundu or Siavonga district hospital.
His words came to pass when a police vehicle on its way to this year’s Lwiindi ceremony overturned along the Bottom Road after a tyre burst a fortnight ago, seriously injuring two police officers who were rushed to Mtendere Mission Hospital.
No life was lost mainly because the officers got medical attention quickly as they were easily taken to hospital through the Bottom Road.
The construction of the Bottom Road has also elated other traditional leaders such as Chief Sinazongwe of the Tonga people who has thanked Government for funding the project which has been a major complaint among the valley Tonga people since independence.
What has made most people in this part of the country happy is that it now takes approximately four hours to travel from Munyumbwe in the Gwembe valley to Lusaka without using the Livingstone- Lusaka road.
The Bottom Road forms an important link in Southern Province and has become a dream come true for many in this area.
It is among the road construction projects being undertaken under the Link Zambia 8000, which was initiated by the Patriotic Front government soon after assuming office in 2011.