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YANDE SYAMPEYO, Lusaka
ALTHOUGH Kaputa district has vast economic potential in agriculture, fisheries and livestock, business opportunities have stagnated due to the poor state of road infrastructure. The three roads leading to the area, namely; the 225 kilometre Mporokoso-Kaputa, Nchelenge-Mununga-Kaputa (170km) and Chienge-Kaputa (70km), are practically impassable, especially in the rainy season.
Kaputa, with an estimated population of 130,000 people, is a leading producer of rice in Northern Province.
Historically, the people of Kaputa were fishermen as the area is surrounded by Lake Mweru Luapula, Mweru Wantipa and Tanganyika coupled with other swamps and rivers.
However, with the depletion of fish in the water bodies, people have turned to agriculture and they grow mainly rice, groundnuts and maize.
It is for this reason that area Member of Parliament (MP) Maxas Joel Bweupe Ng’onga, has set rehabilitation of road infrastructure high on his agenda to open up the area (economically) to rest of the country.
It is Mr Ng’onga’s desire for the three roads, to be tarred, to enable people trade smoothly.
“Whatever is produced in Kaputa, be it rice, maize and fish, barley reaches high consumption areas such as Lusaka and Copperbelt.
Kaputa is also endowed with salt pans, which are explored at a small-scale.
“We have never wanted to commercialise this because the salt pans are supposed to benefit small scale producers,” he says.
The lawmaker, who was first elected MP in 2011, also bemoans the low electricity voltage supplied to the area as it has had a negative effect on investment, especially value addition.
He says Kaputa derives its power supply from Musonda Falls in Luapula and since the constituency is at the extreme end of the power supply, it receives low voltage.
Mr Ng’onga laments the low electricity voltage is unable to sustain operations of milling plants, among other economic activities, hence crops like maize are usually transported to Mansa for value addition.
The MP, an agriculturalist by profession, however, is satisfied with telecommunications infrastructure in the constituency which borders the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tanzania.
He says communication towers are sufficient, although there is need to erect a tower in Kaputa National Park and Kalehulu.
“There is also need for an engineering orientation of the tower erected at Kalaba, because it is benefitting more people in the neighbouring DRC,” he said.
Mr Ng’onga, who is married, is also concerned about the poor or lack of education infrastructure in the constituency.
He laments that the constituency, which has five high schools namely; Nkoshya, Kasepa, Kalaba, Kasongole and Kaputa Secondary Schools, generally lacks school furniture, is impacting negatively on the delivery of quality education.
The MP says the high schools are inadequate to cater for the growing population adding that teacher’s houses are equally in a deplorable state.
“When I became MP in 2011, I found Government had commenced construction of Kaputa Secondary School, which opened to day-schoolers in 2013 and to boarders in 2016. Four basic schools were also upgraded to secondary schools to increase access to high education. These are Nkoshya, Kasepa, Kalaba and Kasongole.
“However, I would be grateful if two more high schools are constructed at Katayi and Mukupa Katandula area to enable us deliver quality education to entire populace,” he says.
Mr Ng’onga further laments the five community schools in the area, which are made of pole and mud, are in a deplorable state.
With the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), the community schools will soon be upgraded to habitable standard.
In the health sector, of the 650 health post project, Kaputa was allocated four health posts, of which unfortunately, none have been constructed and the contract was terminated.
“We are hoping in 2018, things will begin to move as government has assured us the construction of the health posts will commence,” he says.
The MP, however, is happy that through CDF, a health post has been constructed in Luntofwe area.
Mr Ng’onga has partnered with the three traditional leaders senior chief Nsama, chief Mukupa Katandula and chief Kaputa to foster development in the constituency.
He, however, is concerned about the protracted succession wrangles in Chief Mukupa Katandula since 2011, which he said have affected development.
Born in Lusaka on August 25, 1962, Mr Ng’onga, grew up in James Chansa village in Chief Mukupa Katandula’s area.
He was educated at Nkoshya primary and completed his education at Mbala Secondary School in 1980.
“I proceeded to the University of Zambia in 1981, I obtained a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1986,” he says.
The MP was privileged to work with a private company Shell Chemicals, in the marketing and selling of agricultural products.
Later, Mr Ng’onga established a company dubbed Mana Agro Chemicals, which is still in existence.
He says the company propelled him to join politics as he was keen to share profits with residents of Kaputa.
The MP recollects how in 2006, he attempted to contest as area MP but lost to Ms Mutale Nalumango.
In 2011, his patience paid off as people of Kaputa gave him an opportunity to represent them in Parliament.
Mr Ng’onga recalls how his main focus at the time of taking oath of office was to boost the limping health services in the area.
He recollects how the area recorded unprecedented deaths among children and pregnant mothers to malaria.
“The other challenge in this sector was early and unwanted pregnancies and most girls were losing their lives.
“I’m glad to indicate these two challenges are no longer a priority as malaria has scaled down and early pregnancies are no longer giving us headache unlike in the past,” he says.
The MP implores Zambians to take interest and explore Kaputa, which is a sleeping giant.
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