SYLVESTER CHISHIMBA, Isoka
LOCATED in Zambiaâ€™s newly-created Muchinga Province is Isoka Constituency. The constituency is found in Isoka district and is also close to the boundary with Tanzania and Malawi.
The name Isoka means â€˜a surpriseâ€™ (Icipapusho in Bemba, Cidabwiso in Nsenga and Chigambyo in Tonga). The name was derived from the picturesque hill and fertile land, the distinct features of the constituency.
According to the 2010 national census, the constituency has a population of 164,410 and is home to Kafwimbi, Muyombe and Mwenechifungwe chiefdoms.
Isoka constituency is well-positioned in Muchinga Province and provides a gateway to Eastern and Northern provinces. Thus, the area is now being utilised as a transit route between Eastern Province and Nakonde, a border town in Muchinga Province with Tanzania through the Kanyala- Nakonde road. The constituency is also a gateway to the famous Nyika Plateau National Park and Malawi through Rumphi. The upgrading of most roads to bituminous level is envisaged to greatly improve accessibility to the area.
The constituency has not lagged behind as it has already tapped into the benefits presented by information communication technologies through mobile telecommunications service providers, Zamtel, Airtel and MTN. The three leading mobile telecommunications providers have already connected the area to their networks.
The main stay of Zambiaâ€™s economy is agriculture and trading. Agriculture is supported by Government which also buys the produce (maize) through Food Reserve Agency (FRA). The excess produce is sold to private buyers at usually lower prices as compared to FRA floor prices. However, prices generally are determined by the market forces of supply and demand.
Trade is mostly cross border into Malawi, where agricultural produce such as beans, millet, maize, chickens, cattle, and goats are exported and in return products such as soap, clothing, cooking oil, sugar and other groceries are imported. Nakonde and Lusaka are other main sources of goods.
Financial transactions are predominantly informal due to lack of banking and financial services which present an opportunity to would-be investors in the identified sectors. Cross border trade is also informal as goods do not pass through the officially manned entry points. Due to its rapidly growing local economy, most products including dairy and beef from neighbouring chiefdoms find their readily available market in the constituency.
District agriculture co-ordinator (DACO) in Isoka, Victor Siame in an interview said the constituency which is agriculture-oriented has about 14,139 households made up of farmers.
â€œLast year under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), the district received about 25,392 x 50kg bags of Compound D and 23,980 x 50Kg bags of urea fertilisers and we had also received seeds like groundnuts, maize and rice in an effort to diversify production. The farming inputs are not enough to carter for all the farmers in the district,â€ he said.
Mr Siame said a project called livestock infrastructure development, funded by the Africa Development Bank (ADB) to look into livestock disease burden, has been implemented in the constituency.
Employment is mostly informal in the agriculture and commerce sectors. The service industry remains highly underdeveloped, although Airtel and Zamtel have introduced mobile services to the area which have potential to provide both formal and informal jobs through the sale of their products. Government remains the major employer in the education and health sectors.
â€œThe thriving construction in the country has not spared the constituency as the massive projects in Isoka district provide yet another source of employment to the local youth. The constituency is further expected to prosper with the completion of the roads under construction which is to link Isoka and Chama districts thereby positioning Muyombe as a focal point for business,â€ Isoka MP) Malozo Sichone said.
Mr Sichone said his constituency boasts of five upgraded modern secondary schools which previously operated as primary schools.
â€œWe have a project on the construction of the Michael Sata Girlsâ€™ Boarding School. This is the first female school in the constituency, and we want many of our young girls to get an education here other than travelling to other districts. The upgrade and construction of schools in my constituency will help reduce high levels of illiteracy and early marriages,â€ he said.
Mr Sichone said his constituency has experienced a major facelift in the education sector as a lot of facilities are being modernised after Government increased budgetary allocation for schools and college infrastructure.
â€œWe have the newly-constructed Evelyn Hone Isoka campus awaiting its official opening. This will attract pupils from within and as far as Nakonde, Chinsali, Kasama to come and pursue further studies here. We have also embarked on various projects using the CDF such as building of clinics and community schools,â€ he said.
Isoka district education board secretary Kelby Chizyuka commended Government for the development of the education sector in Isoka especially the construction of the Evelyn Hone Isoka campus which waits commissioning in 2016.â€
â€œThis will really attract and expose the young people in the district and what is important to note is that this is their own college, the community will now be able to send their children to this standard college at an affordable rate.This project shows how Government is planning to make education accessible in all parts of the country,â€ she said.
However, the constituency like many others still faces challenges in accessing health care. For instance in Nkombwa, one of the wards in the constituency, most residents have to walk 24 kilometres to the only health centre which is not only understaffed but also under-stocked with drugs.
According to Loster Nakalanga, one of the residents, those who can afford spend a lot of money on transport because of the long distance to the health centre.
â€œPeople pay as much as K200 to hire a taxi and K160 for a motorbike and at the clinic for one to access treatment they have to pay K40. And at times even after paying people are just given prescriptions,â€ she said.
Another resident Ronald Simutengu said when the Patriotic Front Government came into power in 2011, it initiated the construction of a clinic but wondered why works have stalled.
However, Isoka area member of Parliament Malozo Sichone said the clinic project has stalled due to delays in receiving the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), adding that they are yet to receive their 2014 allocation.
â€œWe have planned to set aside K60,000 immediately we receive the CDF allocation for 2014 for the completion of this project before the end of this year, and come next year, health workers will be ready to render their services to the people of Katyetye villageâ€ he said.
Currently, most of the complicated health cases are referred to Isoka District Hospital. Locals also resort to seeking medical attention from Malawi due to comparatively better health services.
Isoka constituency boasts of producing some prominent and distinguished personalities in Zambia such as retired Supreme Court Judge Sandson Silomba, Edwin Muwowo, former deputy speaker of the National Assembly. Dr Austin Sichinga, former State House chief of staff, former Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Bob Sichinga, Adon Chilembo, former District Governor in UNIP government and Ndola-based businessman Ken Kaira, among others.
Total Registered Voters: 26,213
Number of Wards: 12
Current MP: Malozo Sichone – 2011 to date (PF)
Past MPs: Paul Sichamba – 2006 to 2011 (MMD) Harry Sinkala – 2001 to 2006 (MMD) Wamusuwila Sikombe – 1996 to 2001(Independent candidate) Blackson Sikanyika – 1991-1996 (MMD)
Isoka riding on new era of development
SYLVESTER CHISHIMBA, Isoka