MWAPE MWENYA, Lusaka
GOVERNMENT has handed over 51 tractors and 94 tillers to various co-operatives countrywide.
Ministry of Gender director for gender and development Martha Mwitumwa said in an interview that the empowerment programme, which started last year, has benefited more women than men in all the 10 provinces.
Ms Mwitumwa said the aim of the project is to enhance food security and improve nutrition levels at household level and the country at large.
â€œWe picked on tillers because they can easily be used by women, especially in waterlogged terrains where rice is grown. We want to do away with hoes as they are labour-intensive,â€ Ms Mwitumwa said.
She has praised traditional leaders who are willingly offering land to the beneficiaries.
Ms Mwitumwa said Government has engaged traditional leaders as they are custodians of land and they will also help in ensuring that the equipment is used for its intended purpose.
â€œIn the past, district commissioners were engaged but traditional leaders have currently been engaged to take development as closer to the grass roots as possible. The programme is demand-driven by communities and we are giving equipment according to the demand by each community,â€ she said.
Ms Mwitumwa said the standard composition of each co-operative is 50 members and apart from equipment, each group gets K5,000 start-up capital.
â€œThe women are the ones holding senior positions. We do not allow a situation where the head of a co-operative is a man. We also train both men and women as tractor operators. In most cases, women are employed on permanent and pensionable conditions,â€ she said.
She said the Ministry of Gender has so far trained 22 tractor operators, out of whom 11 are women.
Meanwhile, Chief Chibale of Serenje, whose chiefdom has praised Government for the gesture, said the equipment will improve crop yields in his area.
Chief Chibale said the equipment will reduce on the time farmers spend in the field and will motivate more people to venture into farming.
The traditional leader said he is willing to offer land to co-operatives and has appealed to his subjects to guard the equipment jealously.
MWAPE MWENYA, Lusaka