By CHUSA SICHONE in Chisamba District
THE Government has said that farmers in Chisamba District will this year going forward stop relying on rain-fed agriculture because construction of the US$28 million worth World Bank (WB)-funded Mwomboshi Dam is expected to be completed by September.
Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya is also elated that the effects of climate change such as the current drought being experienced in some parts of the country will not affect farmers in the district because in seven months’ time they will be relying on the dam for irrigation.
Ms Siliya said this when President Edgar Lungu inspected ongoing construction works at the Mwomboshi Dam in Chisamba District on Wednesday, the project he launched on March 1, 2016.
“The Government, Your Excellency, is responding to the promises we made to the people that the Government is anticipating the challenges of climate change and that this is how it should be and we know that, especially the smallholder farmers and the commercial farmers in this area are extremely grateful because they know that this will enhance their agriculture further,” Ms Siliya said. “They will not have to depend on rain water and even in times of bad weather they can always depend on the dam.”
Ms Siliya said President Lungu was visiting the dam at an opportune time when Zambia was experiencing the effects of climate change and that such kind of investment was necessary.
Ms Siliya said that such investment was a response to President Lungu’s call to mechanise agriculture through irrigation farming and that such a massive infrastructure was just the first step to investing bulk water sites where rain water could be captured.
The minister thanked President Lungu for the leadership and premium he had placed on agriculture and assured that her ministry would continue working hard so that it could respond to the Head of State’s desire to see an agrarian revolution in Zambia.
The dam, whose duration is 30 months, is now 70 per cent complete and is one of the biggest in Southern Africa as it will have a capacity to store 65 million cubic metres of water, will have a wall of 1,700 metres long and 23 metres high.
The contractor, Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company (AFECC) Limited of China, has employed about 400 Zambians to build the massive infrastructure with potential to serve up to 6,000 farmers.
The President later met the Chisamba farming community at Fringila and assured them that the Ministry of Finance had been tasked to engage the Bank of Zambia to look into high bank interest rates so that they could be favourable as high interest rates would not help in enhancing Zambia’s agriculture sector.
Mr Lungu also urged farmers to consider investing in other crops rather than maize and that he wanted market forces to determine its price.
“We want to leave farming as a business, not as politics and we would want farmers to get value for their effort and that’s why I am trying to do as much as possible to de-politicise the maize crop, only then will it be profitable, only then will people want to invest in it,” President Lungu said.
Earlier, President Lungu inspected the Chisamba District administration building currently under construction and pledged to ensure that he pushed for more funds so that it was completed as he was impressed with the workmanship and design.
President Lungu went on to address an ecstatic crowd at Chisamba Market where he told the people that he went there to check on the level of cleanliness in the market, noting that cholera had hit Lusaka District badly and was happy with what he found at Chisamba Market and pledged to support the council to ensure that the standards were enhanced further.