CHAMBO NG’UNI, Chisamba
WHEN peasants Martha Titima and her husband Joseph Sakala settled in Mwomboshi area in Chisamba some years ago, little did they know that their lives would one day take a right turn.
Like other small-scale farmers, the Titimas were attracted to the area because of Mwomboshi River and the fertile soils.
During the rainy season, they grow maize while off season, they produce vegetables and tomatoes.
“Here we also grow tomatoes,” said Ms Titima. “We earn good money when there is demand for tomatoes.”
Ms Titima narrated to Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary Julius Shawa and his Central Province counterpart Chanda Kabwe who recently visited Mwomboshi that her family earns a living through agriculture.
They sell their tomatoes in Kasumbalesa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some buyers from the neighbouring country also follow the farmers to Mwomboshi.
“Last year we harvested 1,000 boxes of tomatoes and we sold all of them,” Ms Titima said from the new family house built under the government-sponsored resettlement scheme.
When business is good, one box of tomatoes fetches between K150 and K200.
But when the market is flooded with tomatoes, the price goes down to about K40 or K50 per box.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the majority of people in Mwomboshi, and the construction of a dam in the area is expected to turn fortunes of peasants around.
Much to the delight of farmers, Government is building Mwomboshi Dam, at a cost of US$28.3 million.
The project, which is funded by the World Bank under the Irrigation Development and Support Project (IDSP), also comes with an irrigation scheme.
Mwomboshi, located in Miswa ward, a rural community in Chisamba, has a population of 14,517 people. The sites for the dam and irrigation schemes lie about 119km north of Lusaka.
The community is made up of both small-scale and commercial farmers whose major cash crops are maize, vegetables whereas others produce cattle, goats and pigs.
Mwomboshi Dam, which is nearing completion, is expected to boost the crop diversification drive and also increase food production in Zambia.
“When the dam is completed, water will be readily available for the farmers in that area to irrigate their crops,” Chisamba District Commissioner Martin Chowa said.
Mr Chowa said the dam and irrigation scheme will capacitate farmers in the agrarian-based economy of Chisamba.
The dam is being built in Chief Chamuka’s area by Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company Limited (AFECC). Construction work started in February last year.
It will store water for irrigation by small-scale, emergent and commercial farmers. Close to 6,000 households are expected to benefit from Mwomboshi Dam.
IDSP coordinator Barnabas Mulenga said the irrigation scheme will cover 6,500 hectares of land.
“Three thousand and five hundred hectares will be done under small-scale agriculture on the northern side of the scheme,” Dr Mulenga said.
The 3,000ha on the south-end of the scheme will be under commercial agriculture and will accommodate 11 commercial farmers who have already subscribed to draw water from the dam.
With an embankment of 1.7km long and height of about 23 metres, Mwomboshi Dam will be the largest dam built for agriculture purposes in Zambia.
“If we can have dams of this magnitude around the country, at least five of them, we could change the face of agriculture in this country,” an optimistic Dr Mulenga said.
The abundance of water supply that the project brings will offer farmers an opportunity to increase crop production levels.
“Six thousand people will be able to benefit not just from the water that we are harvesting but also from the technology that this dam and irrigation scheme bring,” Central Province Permanent secretary Chanda Kabwe said.
Mr Kabwe said many settlers in the area are already involved in agriculture and through irrigation farming, they will be able to produce more crops.
He said the dam will also provide opportunities for beneficiaries to venture into fish farming using cages within their farms.
Mr Kabwe said this is important in fighting poverty and increasing household income.
Government wants to encourage farmers to practise irrigation farming in bid to upscale crop production and propel economic diversification.
Mr Shawa said the farmers in Mwomboshi have demonstrated that they can produce tomatoes in large quantities with minimum technology.
“She [Ms Titima] is talking about taking a thousand boxes of tomatoes to Kasumbalesa.
“This shows that there is potential here and for me, once the infrastructure is completed, I want to see one farmer taking 5,000 boxes of tomatoes to Kasumbalesa,” Mr Shawa said.
AFECC is working with Z&A Consulting Engineering in building the dam, which is above 90 percent ahead of schedule.
Briefing Mr Shawa and Mr Kabwe during their tour of the project, AFECC project manager Kan Jiatao said the project will be completed in December.
“We are completing this project eight months ahead of the scheduled period and hand over to your Government on 1 December ,” Mr Kan said.
So far, villagers who were displaced to pave way for the building of the dam are being relocated to a site where housing units have been built under the irrigation scheme.
About 230 houses have been built, with each unit sitting on a four-acre piece of land to encourage farming within homesteads.
Ms Titima and her family have already shifted to the new house.
“We are happy we have been relocated here and they have given us this house,” the mother of five said. It’s good that this scheme will improve our livelihoods,” she said.
CHAMBO NG’UNI, Chisamba