ALTHOUGH the principal role of the Church in society is upholding social justice, equality, and promoting people’s welfare, it is equally an efficient and effective catalyst of socio-economic growth. The Church has an empowering role in development through organising workshops, seminars, and conferences for its flock on socio-economic challenges and how to address them. Religious organisations produce substantial economic revenue, provide considerable social capital through their civic and social networks, and foster human capital growth in citizens. The presence of churches in communities allows them to be accessed by people whom they easily connect with, and develop grass-roots networks through their human and physical infrastructure and systems. Due to close proximity and connectivity with grass-roots people, churches know the challenges faced in communities they operate in and, therefore, are aware of their needs and can almost effortlessly identify projects which can improve living standards in such societies. So, with the increased Constituency Development Fund (CDF) from K1.6 million to K25.7 million in this year’s national budget, the Church should play a pivotal role in helping communities identify viable projects and access money under CDF to implement them. Churches can also guide communities on the kind of development projects which can change their lives if successfully implemented using CDF. In the recent past, some stakeholders have urged the Church to play an active role in sensitising their congregants on CDF so that they can form cooperatives through which to access the funds for implementing community projects. Yesterday, President Hakainde Hichilema underscored the need for churches, as partners in development, to work closely with Government in ensuring effective implementation of community projects using CDF to benefit citizens.
“This is an area we pay particular attention to following the Constituency Development Fund, which has been enhanced substantially, and we will continue partnering with the Church to enhance community-based projects,” President Hichilema said. Government considers churches as partners that supplement its efforts to improve the welfare of people in various social sectors like health, education, and women empowerment. Mr Hichilema was speaking in Lusaka during centenary celebrations of the existence of the Salvation Army in Zambia. Like he aptly indicated, Government is not in competition with the Church because the two are there to collaborate to foster unity among citizens and in serving them. With the expanded CDF, there are so many projects being undertaken in communities countrywide because the money is there for such development initiatives, as long as the guidelines for accessing the funds are strictly adhered to by applicants. With relatively low literacy levels in some communities, the Church should come in handy to help such societies properly identify projects which can benefit them because some initiatives may not be that valuable. The Church should help their members come up with worthwhile business proposals so that they access funds for implementing approved suggested projects using money under CDF. Further, the Church should help civic leaders in districts and constituencies identify areas of need in communities to improve delivery of development. Church leaders are knowledgeable enough because they have all relevant information on CDF and can, therefore, guide communities on how to come up with project proposals and effectively implement them if approved. So, we expect the Church to join hands with Government in seeing to it that the increased CDF allocation this year achieves the objective of fast-tracking development in communities.