SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Zimba
AGRICULTURE in Zimba has the potential to enhance economic growth and development, but it needs improved production an d market competitiveness.
In terms of economic activities, 70 percent of the population is engaged in agricultural activities such as cattle rearing, crop production and small-scale trade.
The livestock sector is worth over US$1.5billion in Zambia and accounts for about 35 percent of agriculture production share of national gross domestic product.
The sector has experienced steady growth in recent years. Beef and dairy products are growing around seven percent and 10 percent annually respectively.
With an estimated cattle population of 43,500, of which 45 percent is commercially owned and 55 percent is in the traditional sector, Zimba district has the potential to contribute to the countryâ€™s economy.
It is with this livestock potential that the need to establish proper slaughtering facilities is vital to the district and cannot be over emphasised.
However, Dayow Beef Company Limited noticed the untapped business potential in the district and thought it wise to set up an abattoir at a cost of K3.4 million which has created 22 jobs for the local residents of the district.
Dayow Beef Company limited general manager Ali Dayo said the company was motivated to set up an abattoir to help the small-scale farmers in the district with a befitting slaughter facility.
Mr Dayo said so far, his company has four abattoirs countrywide located in Mbala, Senanga, Zimba and Choma.
He said the animals will no longer be stressed by travelling long distances to the available slaughter house adding that some animals die along the way due to stress.
â€œThe abattoir will also help farmers to reduce on cost transporting animals to the nearest slaughter facilities in the neighbouring districts,â€ he said.
Mr Dayo implored community members in Zimba district to safeguard the facility as it has brought development in the district.
He said the company will also construct staff houses and feedlots on the acquired land adding that the company would also financially and materially support two schools as its Corporate Social Responsibility.
And Zimba district commissioner Elizabeth Kalaluka expressed happiness that her district was becoming economically active and called for more investors in the district.
Ms Kalaluka warned the abattoir management against casualisation.
â€œAs a district commissioner, I am not going to allow casualisation, let people be on permanent employment so that they can plan well for their families,â€ she said.
Gracing the official opening of the Zimba abattoir, Southern Province permanent secretary Sibanze Simuchoba observed that out of the jobs created, 22 families have benefited from the investment.
He assured Dayow Limited that their investment was safe and urged them to ensure that there is gender balance in the organisation.
Mr Simuchooba also implored the investor to adhere to labour laws. He noted that with the rampant cases on stock theft in the district, the abattoir would bring a lot of benefits in Zimba by reducing the vice.
â€œRecords show that Zimba has been badly hit with stock theft, this retrogressive vice will definitely reduce as animals will have documentation before being slaughtered,â€ he said.
He, however, urged the police officers to be vigilant on stock theft.
Mr Simuchooba said the abattoir will also help in reducing disease as animals will be certified fit before being slaughtered for consumption.
â€œThere is need to ensure that if an animal is not safe for human consumption it should be destroyed and meat should never find itself in the pot,â€ he said.
He noted that all the meat will be halaal as animals will be slaughtered under hygiene standards.
Mr Simuchooba urged the company to keep the abattoir clean thereby reducing the bad odours that come from the slaughtering facility.
He said Government would not hesitate to close the abattoir if hygiene standards are not adhered to.
Mr Simuchooba also advised the company to add value to their beef by processing it into various meat products.
And speaking at the same function, Zimba District Veterinary officer Chibango Kaluba hailed the establishment of the abattoir adding that the slaughter slab which was being used was a public health nuisance especially to surrounding residential houses.
â€œThe foul odours emanating from the slaughter facility especially in the evening and in the morning was more than what the community could bear,â€ he said.
Dr Kaluba said the abattoir will mainly rely on the traditional cattle to run its operations.
He called on abattoir management to ensure that livestock movement protocols are observed at all times.
â€œThe abattoir should only allow cattle that have police and local livestock movement permit,â€ he said.
He, however, warned that every person who will be found transporting cattle without a movement permit commits an offence and risks being arrested and taken to court.
Dr Kaluba said the permits would reduce transmission of disease from other districts, notably Kazungula district which is near.
â€œFarmers should also be vigilant by not allowing other farmers from the neighbouring district of Kazungula to bring cattle into their villages and pretend as if they came from villages within Zimba,â€ he said.
He said for the meat inspection, the department of veterinary services, Ministry of Health and the local authority will work hand in hand to ensure that the meat going out for public consumption does not pose any threat to the consumers out there.
Dr Kaluba, however, cautioned farmers against depleting their livestock by selling their breeding stock and immature cattle.
Zimba district has in the past few years never had a good functioning slaughter facility forcing farmers to cover a distance of about 100 miles to the next available abattoir or use the unhygienic slaughter slab.
SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Zimba