TERENCE MISELO, Mpika
MPIKA, which lies at the junction of the Great North Road and the M1 (loosely called Mpika-Kasama road), is known to many Zambians as a transit town and an important gateway to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, vital for trade.
It is for this reason that Mpika Central constituency Member of Parliament (MP) Sylvia Chalikosa, who is also Minister of Works and Supply, has come up with a plan to turn Mpika into a commercially viable town.
Her motivation lies in the fact that Mpika is endowed with huge tracks of land and fertile soils enough to encourage agriculture and other industries.
The Zambia Women Parliamentary Caucus (ZWPC), working in collaboration with Hivos, was in Mpika district to visit and profile works done by Ms Chalikosa from the time she became MP in 2016.
Ms Chalikosa has adopted an empowerment approach to develop Mpika, by prioritising women and youth empowerment through agriculture. She has also done several projects to promote education, health and infrastructure development.
In agriculture, for example, Ms Chalikosa has placed more efforts in empowering women and youths in growing different crops, and is planning to establish a food processing plant.
“We are trying to make Mpika a village town where we grow a lot of citrus fruits, make juices and jam and other products,” she said.
This, she said, is being done by creating many ways of attracting different investments.
“There is ready transport through Tazara [railway] though we don’t have thriving industries. We have the potential to build our own Shoprite. We just need to organise ourselves,” she said.
The MP said she has already advanced plans to create a processing plant.
“One investment we are working on is that of silk production,” she said, in explaining how she plans to encourage Mpika residents to diversify their agriculture.
This will be done under massive sensitisation and community involvement. Further, she intends to introduce farmers to growing mulberry.
“We need to identify what type of industries will work best for Mpika going forward,” she said.
Under agriculture, Ms Chalikosa gave an example of the Malashi Milk Processing Centre, a Livestock Infrastructure Programme (LISP)-funded project as one set up to promote the dairy industry in Mpika.
She explained that the project was motivated by the need to engage Mpika residents in profitable and sustainable agriculture.
The idea also came about as a result of the Mpika Agriculture College, which wants to promote dairy farming and animal husbandry. The project is already underway.
“We will have about 70 milk cows delivered to the centre,” she said.
And one of the project implementers said once functional, the centre will benefit the community in many ways.
The centre will produce up to 2,000 litres of milk per day.
In the same spirit of empowering communities, especially women, Ms Chalikosa started another project of growing orange maize fortified with vitamin A.
This is her personal project aimed at combating malnutrition. It will involve a number of women growing maize for their home consumption.
“The issue of empowering women is always important because women naturally look after families,” she said. To this effect, a number of women are involved in livestock farming with support from the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.
Women have also had their trading places like markets rehabilitated and improved. These mainly include Musakanya market, Tazara and Chilonga market. The MP is also promoting animal rearing in Mufubushi.
The empowerment programme through agriculture has been further extended to the youths. These are encouraged to be involved in agriculture that promotes growing of crops like garlic and ginger.
She said empowerment is a new way of helping the youths as she does not encourage handouts.
Due to this commitment on empowerment programmes, youths in Kaole, Chilikisha, Katongo Kapala and Mwamfushi have benefited. In these areas, Ms Chalikosa is encouraging people to have community fields.
These youths are mobilised through social leaderships, from churches and the party level.
In education, Ms Chalikosa has worked as hard as she has done under empowerment.
Her motivation comes from the understanding that the more learners there are in school, the higher the chances of self-development.
In coming up with educational projects, Ms Chalikosa noticed that there was need for more schools and classroom blocks to improve enrolments and curb early marriages.
For this reason, and on the recommendation of the community, she has lobbied for the construction and completion of schools and classroom blocks in the six wards.
Chipundu Primary School, Kansenga Day Secondary School, Kanyelele Primary School, Kaleleka Community School and Mulolesha Primary School have all had classrooms constructed through the use of Constituency Development Funds (CDF).
In Mukungwa ward, for example, Carol Mulenga, a resident, is very pleased with the MP’s response to educational needs.
Using CDF, Ms Chalikosa lobbied for the construction of a block of three classrooms at Mukungwa Primary School, a two-classroom block at Chewe Primary, and roofing of a three-classroom block at Malambwa Day School, and construction of another three-classroom block at Kanyelele.
Ms Chalikosa also donated a block-making machine at Mukonteka, which was used to make blocks for building of a teacher’s house.
She also pledged 200 pockets of cement towards the construction of a classroom block at Kasenga Secondary School, while she further lobbied for the provision of solar kits to eight schools in her constituency.
Through her vigorous lobbying, new schools like Kampamba Day and Kamwanya Primary and Secondary are nearing completion. Other wards that have benefited from construction of classroom blocks are Chishibasonde, Nachikufu and Musakanya.
In curbing the common water problem experienced in most rural constituencies in Zambia, Ms Chalikosa has played her role to facilitate completion of a number of projects, among them the Mhanda Chishala Weir, Danger Hill Weir, Chambishi Water Project and installation of a water pump in Tazara area. Other projects include the Water Reticulation Project in Chilonga which also involves the installation of water tanks.
Additionally, boreholes have been sunk at Mbola Primary and Secondary School, Malashi, Kasenga, Kwa Mama village and Nsekela.
“The Chilonga water project started in 2012 but there were a few challenges until the time Honourable Chalikosa took over and we managed to complete the project, which is now benefiting close to 1,000 households in the community,” said Godfrey Mwango, the chairperson for Chilonga Water Project.
Under health, Mpika is happy to have seen massive development through the construction of the Michael Chilufya Sata District Hospital, which is now under phase 2 of construction. The constituency also houses Chilonga Mission Hospital, and the MP is happy to also have received 11 health posts of the 650 under the government-to-government support. At the time Chilonga Nursing School experienced a fire disaster, Ms Chalikosa lobbied for reconstruction of the gutted kitchen and construction of a new dining hall and new hostels for the students.
Kampamba Bwalya, a ward councillor in Chishibesonde ward, speaks highly of the Chikomangombe Health Post under construction in Kaole area. He praised the MP for listening to the people’s cry for a health post.
Additionally, there has also been the construction of a mothers’ shelter at Chibansa Clinic in the same ward. Nachikufu and Mukungwa wards have also seen the construction of Luchenene Health Post and construction of VIP toilets at Chibaya respectively.
Another visible sector that has seen development in Mpika is infrastructure through the construction of bridges at river crossing points.
Ms Chalikosa was mainly prompted to do this by the fact that the residents needed to cross rivers safely to access different amenities, including schools, clinics and markets.
The urgent need was also compounded by continuous floods that posed risks and inability to transport inputs to farming communities.
“I don’t impose what development to be put in my constituency. I listen to people and for me bridges came to create safety. These were initiatives prioritised by the residents themselves with the help of CDF,” she said.
As a result of priority, Lwitikila, Kasamba, Mwateshi, Tazara, Minsoshi and Lufune bridges have all been constructed, although Lufune bridge was washed away as a result of heavy rain and very old drainage iron sheet culverts. Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) came to the aid of the constituency so that economic activities would not be disrupted.
The construction has also extended to the roads, which have spurred business and other developments. These roads, especially the Tazara-Mulambwa road, Mpika-Nabwalya road and the dual carriageway, have earned a lot of praises from the community.
Other roads worked on include Nyungwe Road through food for work, and a number of feeder roads have been rehabilitated.
Besides roads, Ms Chalikosa has worked closely with the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) to light up some remote areas in Mpika. Through this programme, farmers have applied to Zesco to get connected and this is an ongoing activity.
“From this REA programme, we have had about six schools benefitting in Mukungwa. With the new curriculum that supports the use of computers, this programme has come at the right time and we thank our MP for facilitating this,” said Simon Mfula, Mukungwa ward councillor.
All in all, Ms Chalikosa has been facilitating these projects with an intention to develop Mpika fully.
It is for this reason she sometimes utilises her personal resources. Through her resources, she has made several monetary donations to various communities.
She, however, does not encourage handouts. Her desire is to see people become self-reliant and fully engaged in viable ventures that will enhance development to Mpika. She is willing and able to progress with the development agenda for her constituency given required resources with full community participation.
TERENCE MISELO, Mpika