PRISCILLA MWILA, Lusaka
NOAH Kaputula of Senama area in Mansa district one worked in the meteorological department of a mining company where he used starch in titration during production.
Today, Mr Kaputula, 68, is using the knowledge he acquired in the meteorological department to run a cassava starch processing plant.
Mr Kaputula has set up a cassava starch processing plant in Mansa at a cost of K1.2 million, after he acquired a loan from the Citizen Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC). At its peak, the plant is expected to make annual returns of US$1 million.
“I came up with the idea of a cassava processing plant when the CEEC advertised that it was sponsoring cassava processing in Mansa in 2013 and wanted to use my experience from working in the leaching plant in the mines where starch was being used for production,” he narrated
Mr Kaputula first started as a farmer in 1996 growing various crops, especially maize, on a small scale for sale and consumption. However, due to lack of money to sustain his farm, he was forced look for formal employment in order to support his family.
Despite being almost 70, Mr Kaputula says he still has the energy to set up and run the first ever starch production plant in Mansa district, proudly owned and initiated by a Zambian.
He has currently finished constructing the plant near his house and has acquired machinery at a cost of K527,000 from China.
Mr Kaputula’s project is expected to engage over 3000 cassava suppliers such as co-operatives, clubs and individuals in Luapula province and create 25 permanent jobs with a production capacity of about eight tonnes of starch per day.
He has become a beacon of hope for other residents in Senama.
Coming from a humble background, which was coupled with a lot of ups and downs especially after he separated from his wife, he is now the talk of his town and a role model to many.
Beatrice Mukuka, one of the residents in the area, says that she could not believe that a Zambian had the ability to set up such a plant despite not being rich like people in urban areas.
Ms Mukuka says people in the area have been given hope that anyone can make a difference if they stay focused, determined and believe in themselves regardless of their age.
“We are very happy and we will give Mr Kaputula the support he needs for this plant to be successful,” she says. “He has been through a lot and we are happy about his development.”
Andrew Kabwe, another resident and probably potential employee at the plant, says he will proudly work with and for Mr Kaputula and wishes to set up a similar plant one day once he acquires the needed knowledge.
“We need to support each other and reach a level where other people’s successes are our learning stones,” he says. “Mr Kaputula did not use any charm to set up such a plant. We all need to learn from such people who are our very own.”
Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Margaret Mwanakatwe, who commissioned the project recently, says Government has funded 1,500 value chain development projects in 62 districts countrywide since 2013 through CEEC.
Mrs Mwanakatwe says Government is concerned about the low participation of locals in economic growth, and has put in place measures to scale up support for small-scale enterprises.
“Luapula is one of the provinces endowed with vast natural resources and arable land for cultivation. We have already identified crops earmarked for value-chain development to enhance our industrialisation agenda,” she says.
Mrs Mwanakatwe says her ministry will continue to create a good investment climate and economic policies for investment, growth and development.
She is urging cassava farmers to expand their fields in order to meet the target needed for the production of starch and earn more money.
Mrs Mwanakatwe said the accomplishment through CEEC underscores Government’s intentions of ensuring 90 percent of the empowerment projects are in rural areas.
And CEEC director-general Likando Mukumbuta says the commission has disbursed more than K11.6 million so far to support various small-scale enterprises such as fish farming, cassava growing and processing, and oil production.
Mr Mukumbuta says the commission will finance 4,000 cassava farmers in the province to enhance production of starch at the plant.
He says the country’s industrialisation agenda must be spearheaded by Zambians, hence the need to ensure they are empowered with the right equipment and finances.
Government has set the pace by introducing various initiatives that create an enabling environment for the entrepreneurship industry to thrive. The responsibility has been left to the players to ensure that they use available resources to grow the industry and contribute to national development.