KNOW YOUR DISTRICT
KELVIN KACHINGWE, Katete
IF THERE is a time when one should visit Katete, it ought to be the last weekend of August.
It is during that time that the district hosts the Kulamba traditional ceremony at Mkaika Palace of Paramount Chief Kalonga Gawa Undi.
The Kulamba is a Chewa thanksgiving festival that draws colourful secret society dancers not just from Zambia, but also Malawi and Mozambique.
It is there that Gule Wamukulu dance takes centre stage alongside female dances such as the Chimtali and Chinamwali for young girls coming of age and others like Chitelele, Mganda and Chigwiti.
In case you are new in town, the Gule Wamkulu is both a secret cult and ritual dance practiced among the Chewa people living in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. It is performed by members of the Nyau brotherhood, which is kind of a secret society of initiated Chewa men.
According to the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), there is evidence that the Gule Wamkulu existed during the great Chewa Empire of the 17th century.
Despite the efforts of Christian missionaries to ban the practice, it managed to survive under British colonial rule by adopting some aspects of Christianity.
To date, Nyau societies, and with it Gule Wamkulu, are still very much alive.
Katete district, and in particular the Mkaika palace, with its Kulamba traditional ceremony, provides an opportunity to get up-close with these societies.
But there is more about Katete, which other than Gawa Undi, has three other sub chiefs; Mbangâ€™ombe, Kathumba and Kawaza.
A dominantly agricultural-based district, Katete has favourable weather conditions for citrus fruit production.
It is this area that Katete district commissioner Peter Kaisa would like to see supported as he believes the district has potential for citrus fruit production.
â€œThere is so much potential for citrus fruits. In the past we used to supply oranges in large quantities. We have big farmers here who can add value to the district and create employment. We can set up factories to add value to these oranges, bananas and pineapples.
My appeal to Government is to help our citrus fruit farmers. They donâ€™t have resources to buy equipment needed to spray the oranges so that these fruits do not grow with spots.
Similarly, with bananas, my thinking is that Government consider them on the Farmer Input Support Programme just the same way like those growing groundnuts and maize,â€ Colonel Kaisa says.
Other than citrus fruits, the population in Katete grows maize, cotton, groundnuts and beans. It also has livestock production of cattle, pigs and goats.
However, the production of cotton has considerably gone down due to a drop in prices on the world market which has forced farmers to switch to maize.
Katete, with a population of about 160,000 of which 80 percent is rural, has taken a different shape following the creation of Sinda district in 2012. Like Petauke, it has had to give some wards to Sinda.
Lying at the foot of rocky hills which lie to its east, including Mpangwe and Kangarema, which rise to 1,600 metres, Katete is about 3,877 square kilometres in size. It has two constituencies, Mkaika and Milanzi and 18 wards.
On the western side, it is bordered by Chadiza, with Petauke being on the southern side and Chipata, Msoro and Sinda in the north. It also has a common border with Tete Province in Mozambique.
In fact, there is a lot of cross border trading in kapenta, alcohol and spirits. Some of the traders come from as far as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) although a large proportion of them also come from Lusaka.
Katete lies on the Great East Road, about 90 kilometres south-west of Chipata at an elevation of 1,060 metres on the watershed between the middle Luangwa River and the Zambezi River.
It is serviced by two main truck roads, the Great East Road and Mozambique-Chanida road, which are tarred and eight feeder roads which are partially gravelled.
In town, it has a major road junction, with a surfaced road branching off and running 50 kilometres to the Mozambique border and connecting with Tete on the Zambezi 339 kilometres to the south-east.
Although it has no higher learning institution, it has about 103 schools including five secondary schools; Kapoche Secondary School, Katete Day, Katete Girls, Kafumbwe Secondary and Chisali. However, it has been given a go-ahead to upgrade Chipende Primary School and Matumba Primary School into secondary schools.
In health, Katete has about 19 health centres in addition to St Francis Mission Hospital. However, of the 650 health centres to be constructed countrywide, Katete has been allocated six.
The district has been facing some challenges with feeder roads which are in poor condition and the inadequate safe drinking water and sanitation.
However, these are being addressed.
A water treatment plant is being set up, which according to the district commissioner, once completed will ensure that there is water throughout the day.
The roads being worked on include the Chadiza-Katete, which is being done by China State Engineering Company. The Katete-Msoro Road is also expected to be done under the Link Zambia Project while some urban roads within Katete are being repaired under the Pave Zambia.
So far, about 15 kilometres has been improved to tarmac standard. The feeder roads are being worked on by the local government, and so far, a stretch of 14.5 kilometres has been done.
Also, a number of health centres and primary schools are being renovated.
Simply put, the opportunities in Katete are many. They include the vast land for agricultural irrigation, the tourism potential due to the Kulamba ceremony and favourable weather conditions for citrus fruit production.
KNOW YOUR DISTRICT