Ng’ombe: From cattle ranch to township

NG’OMBE settlement is an improvement area that was legalised on February 16, 1999 by the then Ministry of Local Government and Housing under the Statutory and Improvements Act of 1999.
It is located about 10 kilometres from the main post office or three kilometres from the University of Zambia main campus.
Tamalizika Phiri is between 70 and 72 years old and is one of the founding members of the Ng’ombe Cooperative Market, which is one of the oldest markets in Old Ng’ombe established in the 1970s.
“We were only women when we started this market. We sat down and discussed what we would do because we had children to look after and were just young women,” Ms Phiri says.
They decided to start selling in the area that would later become a sprawling market.
As far back as her memory would allow, Ms Phiri began recollecting the different names of market chairpersons that have since served at the market.
She also praised the current market chairperson, Morris Chulu, whom she says is serving everyone well so far.
Mr Chulu arrived in Ng’ombe in 2004 and served as a marketeer for a few years.
After seeing his dedication in the market, the members sat down and elected him chairperson of Ng’ombe Cooperative Market where he served for three years.
During those three years, he helped get the market connected to electricity, sank a borehole and facilitated the installation of flushing toilets.
“Since then the environment has changed and people operate freely,” he says.
Upon seeing how he served for three years, he was re-elected as chairperson and is currently serving his second term.
According to research done by the Lusaka City Council (LCC), ng’ombe is a Nyanja word for a cow or cattle, denoting its previous role as a cattle ranch for Galaunia Farms. The township started in the 1930s as a small settlement for farm workers who looked after cattle.
It is surrounded by Kalundu to the south, Chudleigh to the east, Chamba Valley to the north and Roma to the west.
It is located in Roma Ward 17 and operates under the Ward Development Committee (WDC), whose major role is to facilitate development and implement developmental projects in the area. The WDC consists of 24 duly elected representatives from 12 zones and a ward councillor, who is an ex-official.
The WDC is registered by the council under the Societies Act and is governed by the WDC Constitution.
“Ng’ombe is divided into 12 zones, and residents from each zone democratically elect 10 people (five male and five female) who form the ZDC. Members of the ZDC democratically elect two representatives (male and female) for the WDC. Basically the work of the ZDC is to identify developmental problems in the zones and forward them to the WDC,” explains Mulimba Yasini in his research paper for the LCC profiling Lusaka’s unplanned settlements.
In 1964 after Zambia got its independence, the farm was repossessed from Galaunia by the Zambian Government and was earmarked for national development programmes.
To this end, the cattle were taken to another farm in Chisamba, but the farm workers remained in the area. These farm workers started inviting friends and relatives to go and stay with them considering that the land was free and vast.
By 1966, many people had started streaming into the area from different parts of Lusaka, such as Kalingalinga, Chinika, John Howard, Mandevu, Chamba Valley, Chibolya and Chaisa. Other settlers who came to stay in the township were workers from an international company, which was located in Roma township.
The workers decided to go and live in Ng’ombe because it was nearer to their workplace. By 1970, the population in the area had increased and the housing structures expanded.
Public problems were beginning to unfold: the residents lived in poor houses made of mud walls and thatched grass roofs or made of cast off metals in poor environments; the settlement did not have a school or a clinic and people were drinking water from the stream and shallow wells around the settlement. In 1970, following a research undertaken by UNZA students, three improved wells were drilled and hand pumps were installed.
Unfortunately, two years later the hand pumps broke down and the water crisis resumed.
“In 1971, a branch under UNIP was formed in the area to oversee development in the settlement. Several socially and economically inclined activities followed suit. In 1974, UNIP, under its branch in Ng’ombe, started organising community meetings meant to mobilise residents to contribute some money towards the purchase of water pipes,” Yasini shares.
The community managed to raise the money and the pipes were purchased and laid down in the same year with the help of the Lusaka Municipal Council. This helped to reduce the water crisis in the settlement.
Between 1976 and 1979, a Roman Catholic Church was constructed in the area with the help of the Roman Catholic Sisters. This church was also used as a community (welfare) school. In 1982, CCF came to the area: one of its objectives in the settlement was to upgrade Ng’ombe Community School into a primary school. The organisation also helped to encourage a sense of community participation in the minds of Ng’ombe residents. In 1996 the construction of Ng’ombe Clinic commenced and was completed and officially opened in 1998 by then Minister of Health, Professor Nkandu Luo. During the same period, a basic school was constructed by the JICA, and it was handled over to the Government of the Republic of Zambia in 2000.
Lillian Chisunka has lived in Ng’ombe for 32 years and has been selling food since her youth in the UNIP days.
In days gone by, she would queue up at National Imports and Exports Corporation (NIEC) and the Zambia Consumer Buyers Corporation (ZCBC) stores for items like mealie meal, soap, sugar and cooking oil. These items were then resold in the township.
She began trading as a vegetable seller in 1991, a business which has helped her educate her eight children and sent a couple of them to college. It’s the same business which enabled her to build a house.
Ms Chisunka presently has a vegetable stall at Young Valley Market in new Ng’ombe area.
“In the past there were a lot of things we struggled with. There were only four grocery shops in old Ng’ombe,” she says. “There was Banda grocery, Soko grocery, Consumer grocery and Mulenga’s grocery.”
Commodities like soap, cooking oil, lotion and mealie meal were difficult to find as they were in short supply.
Ms Chisunka says now everywhere people can find grocery shops and can access different items.
“Ng’ombe is not how it was back in the days. We have people from all over now and different languages are spoken. Others are coming from different countries and we are welcoming them because we are a Christian nation,” she says.
She says all what residents can do is be thankful to God for how the township has grown and continues to grow and for the fact that there is no shortage of food.
The people of Ng’ombe are mostly involved in informal employment. Women are involved in selling groceries, foodstuffs and charcoal by the roadside or in the markets and renting out houses. Some work as maids, washing clothes for those with money, while others are in and tailoring. Men are mainly involved in carpentry, tailoring, tinsmith, welding, bricklaying, renting out houses and petty trading.
Over the years the area has attracted residents who are in formal employment and they include health workers, police officers, teachers, clerks, security guards and drivers.

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