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IN LUNGA district , water transport is very vital. Above, traders transport meal-meal from Samfya to Lunga for sell.

Lunga district development crusade on course

LUNGA district in Luapula Province is not an everyday-kind-of district that everyone is used to because of the numerous transport challenges people in the area face.
The district, which has abundant water around it, requires people to move with boats from one point to the other.
For one to travel from Chief Kasomalunga’s area to Chief Nsamba’s area, water transport is the only option.
The terrain is both interesting and challenging for first time travellers to the district.
Despite the difficulty in accessing the area, the late President Michael Sata declared Lunga, which was previously part of Samfya, a district on November 8, 2011.
According to Lunga acting district commissioner Martin Chilukwa, Mr Sata during his campaigns, prior to the 2011 general elections, promised the people of Lunga that their area would be granted a district status so that social services are brought closer to the people.
True to his word, just two months after his ascension to the presidency, Lunga indeed was conferred the status.
Prior to the 2011 general elections, people in the area complained about difficulties in accessing education and health facilities among other social services.
When Lunga was declared a district, Government faced difficulties in identifying a piece of land where the district administration offices and other support infrastructure could be built because there was very little State land in the district.
Mr Chilukwa recalls that Chief Kasomalunga was generous enough to offer the State a piece of land in his chiefdom where the entire infrastructure crucial to running a district could be built.
“He gave us a piece of land and we came in as Government. By November 2012, the district was well staffed and all positions at district level were filled.
“In 2013, infrastructure development in the district started shaping up. We started with 20 medium-cost houses and so far, 10 have been done up to roof level,” he said.
He said Government then began constructing another 20 houses for civil servants 10 of which are medium-cost and the other 10 are low-cost.
Apart from the civil servants houses, a post office block, whose construction commenced in 2014, is nearing completion and a roof has already been erected.
The construction of a police station was also rolled out in 2014.
Currently, police officers attached to the district come from Samfya and work in Lunga for a week and return before another group is sent there.
A civic centre complex is also coming up and is slightly above window level.
As for the district administrative offices, Government is in the process of engaging another contractor to build the district administrative offices because TJK Construction which was initially engaged has delayed to start the works.
As indicated earlier, Lunga is a special district because it is surrounded by water.
Firms constructing the infrastructure mentioned above have had to transport all their building material by water. This makes the construction work more challenging because water transport is more expensive but less efficient as compared to road transport.
“You spend more money and more time on water than you would on road and vice-versa,” Mr Chilukwa said.
He praised the contractors for participating in the infrastructure development works in Lunga district despite the difficult terrain of the area.
He also applauded civil servants attached to the district for their commitment in ensuring Government’s vision for the district is implemented.
Lunga district civil servants currently operate and work in Samfya as their houses and offices are yet to be completed.
Government through the Zambia Information, Communication and Technology Authority (ZICTA) last year installed communication towers in Chiefs Kalimankonde, Bwalya Mponda, Kasomalunga and Nsamba’s areas.
This has made it possible for people in Lunga to own mobile phones and communicate with people in other parts of the country.
Previously, as Boyd Bwalya, a Lunga resident recalls, people used to get stuck on water and would not call anyone for help because there was no network.
“If you got lost on the lake, you just had to pray that someone found you because there was no network to call anyone for help,” he said.
Mr Bwalya said people are grateful to Government for introducing telecommunications in the area.
Lunga district will get nine out of the 650 health posts that Government is building countrywide but the project has not yet started in the district.
In terms of education, two schools in Itala and Bwalya Mponda’s area have been upgraded from primary to secondary schools.
The district’s tourism potential is vast. Lunga has a variety of animal and bird species that include the black lechwe, leopards, crocodiles and birds like the shoebill.
The aquatic environment also hosts different species of snakes, and other living organisms that people studying botanical could be interested in exploring further.
The water bodies also have a variety of plant species some of which are obstructing the water channels leading to the district.
The district also has a national park, the Bangweulu Wetland Game Reserve which passes through five chiefdoms.
Just like other districts in Luapula Province, many peasant farmers in the district also grow cassava for consumption purposes.
Rice is another crop that many farmers are increasingly growing for consumption and sale although there are no statistics to show the tonnage produced.
The abundant water resources in the area make the district ripe for producing enough rice not only for local consumption, but also for export.
This is probably why Mr Chilukwa, the district commissioner, appealed to investors to consider going to the district and venture into commercial rice farming.
He says commercial rice farming can help local farmers improve their farming methods and engage in value addition to make the produce more competitive.
Although Lunga farmers sell their rice to people in Mansa, Samfya, and Mpika, the rice is sold in its shells. Further, the absence of larger water vessels limits the amount of rice farmers can sell to other districts.
Bananas are grown on a larger scale, especially in Chief Kalimankonde’s area where sugarcane is also dominant and could contribute to economic development if water transport is improved through the use of larger boats to make the area accessible.
With the abundant water in the area, sugarcane growing and sugar production would definitely succeed if it is encouraged.
Lunga’s neighbours include; Samfya, Mpika, and Chilubi Island.
The challenges in Lunga are just as enormous as the existing
opportunities. If the people, working with the local leadership and Central Government worked together, there are a lot of ways that can be explored to turn Lunga into a really beautiful place that it already is with its beautiful scenery and abundant water resources.