Columnists Features

Let us appreciate what we have Part 2


LAST month at the height of the unfortunate and senseless rioting and looting in some densely populated parts of Lusaka, I was attending a funeral of a high ranking government official who had passed on, MHSRIP. Apart from being a prominent government official, the deceased was also a pillar and a member of the royal establishment. As a consequence of this status, his funeral attracted a sizeable group of people who were actually ferried from the village in two big buses. For many of us who have not visited the village for a long time, it was an opportunity to meet our friends and relatives whom we have not seen in years and decades.
Many of us wanted to find out the state of those nostalgic places where we used to play and spent our childhood. And to my surprise, every time you would inquire about a particular place, the answer was, that place is no longer there but a new school or a health centre has been built there or that is a place where an MTN or Airtel or Zamtel communication tower has been built or a bore hole has been sunk there or a tarmac road now passes through that place.
And in the grim and gloom of the funeral, mourners still found moments of laughter when some people attending the funeral would call back home in the village, hundreds of kilometres away from Lusaka to find out how people were back in the village or consult over some traditional issue.
In my silence, I was amazed at how life has changed in the rural areas of Zambia. But then, is this not what we are able to see and read from the electronic and print media day in and out? Is this not the reality that the journalists from progressive media houses who travel across the country are trying to show us that these developmental projects are a reality? Then if life in the rural areas has changed so much for the better, why are people still living in such deplorable conditions in these densely populated townships of Lusaka, Kitwe, Ndola and other mining towns?
Is the message of the developmental projects being implemented in the rural areas getting to those in urban areas who continue to live in these deplorable conditions? Is the message really getting to these people in urban areas that with all these developmental projects, it is now easier in most rural areas around the country to have access to health and communication services, clean water, electricity and send children to school?
That it is now much easier to travel and move goods for business and other purposes between Nakonde and Mbala, Kasama, Luwingu and Mansa, Mpika and Chama, Mongu and Kalabo, Luanshya and Mpongwe than it was in the past?
Development Communication Theory indicates that when Government has done its part in implementing developmental projects, it is always important that NGOs and other independent organs help transmit this information and communicate to the people. Some information on development has to be transmitted by independent people to encourage genuine response.
Regardless of how genuine and honest the public media can be in highlighting the progress in rural areas, there will always be those that will consider this information as mere propaganda. And in the African society where everything is politicised, it is easy to think that all these developmental projects are merely state propaganda.
NGOs and the Church in Zambia must come forward and communicate to people in urban areas that with all these developmental projects being implemented, life in rural areas is far much better than in these densely populated townships of Lusaka, Kitwe, Ndola and other mining towns.
It is only NGOs and the Church that can encourage some of these people to relocate back to the rural areas rather than continue to live under such deplorable urban conditions. It is the deplorable life in these densely populated townships that is making people react violently to any false rumours.
This is where the NGOs should partner with the government now and come up with deliberate programmes to begin repatriating those that would like to voluntarily return to the rural areas and help them rekindle their lives. There is nothing wrong with such programmes because all over the world, such programmes are going on. In the USA, they have for instance the American Hinterland and Attracting Generation Y programmes. All these programmes in these countries are aimed at attracting citizens of these countries back to the rural areas.
Zambia is on the right course by implementing so many developmental projects in rural areas. The next step is for the Government, NGOs and the Church to encourage people to move from urban to rural areas. Development Studies all over the world indicate that people who move from urban areas to rural areas have an advantage to succeed back in rural areas because of the knowledge and skills they have acquired while in urban areas.
It is a tragedy to let people continue living in deplorable conditions in urban areas where they become prey to politicians who excite them with false promises and hope when life is already far much better in rural areas.
The author is a PhD student in Development and Management Studies and an employee of the Ministry of General Education.

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