NKWETO MFULA, Mpika
SENIOR headman Kaluba of Kaluba village in Chief Mukungule’s chiefdom in Mpika is a former poacher who also practised Chitemene system of farming 21 years ago.
Headman Kaluba, whose name is Benard Kaluba, migrated from the Copperbelt to the village during first Republican President Kenneth Kaunda’s programme dubbed ‘Go back to the land’ after a stint in the mining sector.
‘Go back to the land’ was meant to make Zambians live in rural areas and develop the regions by engaging in economic ventures such as farming.
In response to President Kaunda’s vision, Mr Kaluba, now 53 years old, heeded the message.
The traditional leader and a father of nine with 10 grandchildren migrated to the village in 1983.
From then till 1996, Mr Kaluba was deep-rooted in poaching until the unlicenced gun he inherited from his late father was confiscated by the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) officers.
“I was lucky they [ZAWA officers] just confiscated the gun and I was not arrested,” he says with a deep sigh.
He, however, says he continued to hunt illegally using borrowed guns. But later, he gave up in 1996.
It was from then that the headman, who is incharge of 22 villages, styled himself as a ‘reserve ZAWA officer’ and confiscated illegal guns from members of the community and reported the culprits to Chief Munkugule of the Bisa-speaking people, who later handed over the guns to ZAWA.
To supplement his income and ensure food security, the Linso Lyamfumu (Chief’s eye) took to the Chitemene system of farming.
Chitemene system of farming is the cutting down of trees and stacking them together in one place and burning them before planting crops.
Then came the Foundation for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation (FWHC), who engaged the community and taught them how to grow a variety of crops such as sunflower and beans.
The villagers made cooking oil from sunflower seeds.
It was the fertiliser input support programme (FISP) that increased the yields for headman Kaluba and other villagers.
Today, he is a proud small-scale farmer who owns a car and a hammer mill through cultivating maize and other cash crops.
“I realised that in poaching I just was wasting my time. I could not have bought a car and a hammer mill from the money I used to generate from the illegal activities,” he says.
Chief Mukungule is happy that his subjects are abandoning the Chitemene system way of farming in preference for fertiliser, a method which has resulted in increased yields.
“The yields from the Chitemene system of farming were not enough as compared to now when the villagers are using fertilisers,” he says.
He states that farming has also contributed to the reduction of poaching in his chiefdom, which shares a part of North Luangwa National Park.
With the concentration on agriculture, Chief Mukungule is optimistic that conservation of wildlife and tourism will be enhanced.
The chief is happy with the formation of Mukungule Community Natural Conservancy (MCNC) to protect natural resources through sustainable development.
The formation of MCNC is being spearheaded by FWHC, an organisation run by chief executive officer Hammersjoeld Simwinga.
“We have formed committees that will be holding consultations with the community on the way forward,” he says.
Mr Simwinga explains that MCNC is a long-term project likely to come to fruition by 2040.
So far, the consultation process for the establishment of the conservancy has been launched in Mpika. This was during the just-ended future search conference 2017 for the establishment of Mukungule Community Conservancy.
Mr Simwinga says a total of 5,000 hectares of land has been acquired in Mukungule chiefdom and everything is set to embark on natural conservation for sustainable development that will benefit the people in the region.
For Mr Simwinga, the sky is the limit in his journey to establish a conservation that will be of benefit to the future generation.
Mr Simwinga says natural resources should be conserved to bring about development through enhanced tourism.
Initiatives such as Mpika’s Mukungule community natural conservation should be supported by all stakeholders as Zambia looks forward to developing the tourism industry if it is to benefit the rural communities, especially those in tourist destination regions.