ELIZABETH CHATUVELA, Mongu
PLANNING at any stage is critical and this is why the Western Province Development Co-ordinating Committee (PDCC) last week met to reflect and deliberate on important issues pertaining to the development of the region.
The meeting took place from July 16 to17, 2015 at Accamâ€™s Lodge in Mongu.
It attracted district commissioners (DCs) from the provinceâ€™s 16 districts, stakeholders, chiefâ€™s advisors from the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE), a youth group calling itself, 100 Percent Youth as well as non-governmental organisations.
Also in attendance was Southern Province permanent secretary Sibanze Simuchoba, Luapula Province Permanent Secretary, Boniface Chimbwali and their Eastern Province counterpart Chanda Kasolo.
The meeting started with DCs giving an overview of what they are doing in their respective areas as regards infrastructure, health, education and agriculture.
Almost all the districts highlighted a number of infrastructure development taking place in various sectors, though the issue of lack of transport topped the list of challenges.
The meeting heard that the transport predicament was severe in the newly created districts, a situation that has left Kalabo district with no choice but to use an ambulance for daily operations and administrative errands.
This was disclosed by planner Kenneth Sampa who made the presentation on behalf of Kalabo DC Alfred Miyata.
Apart from the DCsâ€™ presentations, PDCC sub-committees were also given room to present to the meeting on the new things the province has registered since September last year.
The last PDCC meeting was held in August, 2014. PDCC has four committees that include economic and infrastructure, gender and HIV and AIDS, agriculture, environment and natural resources, and social services.
The committee on economic and infrastructure informed the house that the works on the Sioma Bridge will be completed in December this year, while the Mongu-Kalabo road will be completed next year in July.
Both projects are critical as they will make travel easy unlike the current situation where vehicles and people passing through Sioma have to use a pontoon, while in the case of Kalabo, the fastest mode of travel is by water.
The journey from Mongu harbour to Kalabo by speed boat is two hours, with those using a canoe covering three hours.
For the agricultural Committee, the highlight was the droughts that have hit 13 of the 16 districts.
The committee informed the meeting that the province will on August 1, start implementing the recovery period plan with the help of the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit in the Office of the Vice President.
The committee on HIV and AIDS and gender disclosed that the prevalence rate for the province has continued to go up.
A report presented to the meeting indicates that the prevalence rate has increased from 15.2 percent in 2014 to 15.4 percent in the last quarter of 2015.
The rate at which the new infections are being recorded has also moved from two percent last year to six percent.
And the social services committee informed the meeting that it has rehabilitated the Yuka Cultural Centre among other projects.
The guest provinces were also given an opportunity to share with Western Province how the host region can help market itself.
Luapula PS, Mr Chimbwali, reported that his province, which is surrounded by water bodies like Western Province, is working on modalities to shift the peopleâ€™s minds from fishing to farming.
He said Luapula wants to venture into cassava and sugar cane cultivation.
Mr Chimbwali said the province has already identified an investor who will work with local farmers in the growing of cassava at a commercial scale.
He also reported that Luapula is also a potential tourist destination, as the area has 10 waterfalls.
â€œOn the tourism part, we have already started marketing ourselves and
this has yielded fruits considering the number of local and international tourist that want to visit us,â€ he said.
Southern Province PS, Mr Simuchoba also stressed the need to market Western Provinceâ€™s tourism.
Western Province PS Mwangala Liomba thanked his counterparts from Eastern, Luapula and Southern provinces for finding time to share with the meeting what they are doing to address poverty and unemployment in their respective regions.
Mr Liomba, who is the chairperson for PDCC, said the information that Mr Chimbwali had shared will help Western Province address some of its challenges.
â€œFrom what Luapula has presented, I do not think there is any more poverty in the area. For Southern Province, you will soon get a competitor for sugar because we are equally setting up a sugar plantation in Shangombo district, and the funders for the project are expected anytime from now,â€ he said.
And Western Province Minister Poniso Njeulu says the meeting which is part of monitoring mechanism by Government provided an opportunity to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the development programmes and projects being implemented in the province.
He said the province had invited other provinces to share their experiences.
Mr Njelu said this in a speech read for him by Mr Liomba during the official opening of the PDCC meeting.
â€œAllow me to inform you that the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr Edgar Lungu, is eager to see even further co-ordinated development managed especially at the province and the lower sub planning levels.
By that the President shows Zambia and Western Province in particular that the government and the Patriotic Front is very much committed to the crusade of decentralisation, good governance and working towards a more equitably developed and prosperous country, commitments which have been expressed in the PF manifesto,â€ he said.
Planning provides a platform for various government organs and other stakeholders to identify areas of need and come up with practical, participatory interventions, which is why it should be taken seriously.
ELIZABETH CHATUVELA, Mongu