MARGARET CHISANGA, Kabwe
FARMERS look forward to the first rains every year, and hope for a healthy downpour throughout the season to ensure growth of crops and a healthy harvest.
However, in the sprawling township of Makululu, one of the largest townships in southern Africa, rains can also spell doom for some families as their poorly constructed houses risk tumbling down from the force of the downpour.
“Part of Makululu lies on swampy ground, on what is locally called Kumagandayama. Here, when the population was smaller, residents would take their cattle for grazing, but often one or two animals would get stuck in the mud,” says one of the officers at Kamanda Police Post, Fabiano Muyodi.
Formed in the 1970s, Makululu was initially a settlement for those migrating from rural areas in search of employment in the then thriving mines of Kabwe, also known as Broken Hill town, after the discovery of a skull believed to be the first human ancestor to be found in Africa in 1921.
“The first settlers built simple homes from clay, and thatched their homes much in the same way as they would in the village. Others took to farming and rearing cattle in Magandanyama,” Mr Muyodi said.
However, in the 1990s, the population in the township took a sudden upward surge, and with it came the problems common to high density settlements lacking social amenities.
“These include poor sanitation and a general lack of basic health and education services due to overpopulation. The general lack of employment opportunities in the town has also resulted in an increase in crime, with gang-related crime being the most common,” he said.
The upswing in population came during the privatisation drive of then President Frederick Chiluba’s government, which saw thousands of Zambia Railways and Kabwe Mine employees who had lost employment through retirement or retrenchment, opt to settle in the township.
The 2010 census puts the population of Makululu ward at 3,328, with the age group 10 to 39 having the highest number at 2,172.
However, what is collectively known as Makululu township is a combination of different wards such as Chililalila ward (5,489), Zambezi ward (8,230) and Moomba (11,038), giving the township a population of 28,085.
Many of these live in homes not strong enough to hold when heavy rains come pouring.
“We came when my father left the mines on the Copperbelt and came to work here, and over the years, I have seen houses collapse and families displaced, but they still come back,” says Paul Machuta, as he takes me on a tour of the township.
The woes of displacement are well documented, with well over 10,000 families affected in the last five years. In 2012, the Daily Mail reported that about 4,000 people were affected by flash floods, leaving most of them in the cold when their houses collapsed. Government came to their aid through the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit.
Over the years, a number of organisations have started initiatives to help the residents of Makululu. Prominent among them is Habitat for Humanity, which periodically carries out initiatives to build houses for affected residents.
Two years ago, First Lady Esther Lungu joined the organisation in building a house for Kaluba Mukenisha in an initiative between the organisation and Standard Chartered Bank.
To address the education challenge, Government contracted BSBK Joint Venture to build Makululu Secondary School in Kabwe. The works started in 2014. The secondary school will be the first in the area, affording an opportunity to the over 1,000 youths resident in the township.
Currently, pupils attend schools located in surrounding townships. These include St Mary’s, David Ramushi and Mine Secondary School.
Zambian musician Brian Bwembya, popularly known as B-Blow, has decided to add to the capacity of David Ramushi by starting a project to build a classroom block as well as a wall fence.
“I decided to start this project because I believe that education is vital if the youth are to leave the trap of poverty. I am working with well-wishers to ensure that education is made available to over 3,000 youths in Makululu township,” he said.
Others such as the embassy of Ireland in Zambia have noted the need for education material and recently donated teaching and learning materials to Makululu Community Primary School through the Zambia Orgainsaiton for Community Schools (ZOCS).
“It was a joyous day at Makululu Community Primary School in Kabwe district when the Ambassador of Ireland to Zambia Mr Séamus O’Grady donated teaching and learning materials to that school,” the organisation posted on its website.
ZOCS further requested for individuals and companies to support community schools with books, chalk, desks and infrastructure as many community schools in Zambia do not have enough teaching and learning materials.
To help the girl child, DREAMS – an initiative to create an AIDS- free cadre of women and girls – operates a centre to provide a safe space where young women are free to talk about their reproductive health issues. The centre also offers sexual reproductive health services in a non-judgmental manner.
Another project underway in Makululu is community-based education empowerment (CBEE) with the mandate to enable vulnerable children to reach their full potential.
CBEE project coordinator Lazarous Chongo said the project requires about US$20,000 to begin the construction of the school.
“Makululu CBEE School will be a safe space where we provide children with spiritual, emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, physical and social support,” he said in an interview.
He said the school will provide a learning environment so that all children can aim high and achieve their God-given full potential.
In terms of water and sanitation, the Lukanga Water and Sewerage Company has placed water kiosks at strategic points in order to allow as many people as possible to have access.
Habitat for Humanity has also joined this project by embarking on a borehole drilling project.
According to the Kabwe Muncipal Council, the organisation has a project of creating 109 water points which include kiosks and boreholes over a four-year period which started in 2014.
Kabwe Deputy Mayor Dominic Sichamba said Government is committed to making the lives of people in the district easier through public-private partnerships (PPP) such as the one it has with Habitat for Humanity.
“Such high impact project should be commended because many people will benefit from it. It may look small but has a very powerful impact to the community through an increase in provision of clean water and sanitation,” he said.
In terms of access to health, another key service lacking for residents, the Government recently opened a maternity ward at Kawama health post to bring the service closer as women would trek to Kabwe Central and Kabwe Mine Hospital.
Central Province Minister Sydney Mushanga said the maternity wing which was built at a cost of about K176, 000 through the Constituency Development Fund will help reduce maternal and infant mortality rates.
Mr Mushanga said Government will continue to prioritise health service provision as a pathway to achieving the Vision 2030.
MARGARET CHISANGA, Kabwe