FIRST Quantum Minerals (FQM) is doing the right thing by seeking training opportunities in conservation farming for traditional leaders in North-Western Province.
This is a region that has become prominent for its mining activities which have continued to make a big difference in the lives of the local people.
The huge investments going into mining and the corresponding contributions to the national economic growth have rightly earned North-Western Province a befitting moniker – the second Copperbelt of Zambia.
There is no doubt that the province has stirred back to life as more investors, attracted to Zambia by a stable political and economic environment, roll out different social and economic programmes that are benefitting the locals.
We can cite the FQM-led Kalumbila mining project which promises to help restructure the living conditions of the people for the better.
The US$100 million heavy-duty truck assembly plant that will be set up is among the spin-off investments FQM has attracted at Kalumbila, west of Solwezi where the global metals and mining company is constructing Sentinel Mine.
Other investments which also run in millions of dollars are in construction, agro processing, sawmilling, hospitality, banking and energy.
Kalumbila Minerals Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of FQM has set aside a budget of $12.6 million to resettle 570 families affected by Sentinel Mine.
Sentinel is the first of the three potential mines by the mining firm at its new large-scale project, Trident.
All these are appreciable efforts the mining giant is making to ensure the Zambian people draw significant benefits from their natural resources.
However, it is important to note that development experts have been advising Zambia to speed up its economic diversification programme.
The reminders on this subject hinge on the fact that copper, and indeed other minerals, are wasting assets and the country can, therefore, not afford to anchor its entire development agenda on it.
Government has demonstrated its desire to plan for future generations as evidenced by the huge investments being sought in growth sectors such as tourism and agriculture.
This is the reason why FQM is proving to be a vital partner with Government as it is encouraging local chiefs to guide their subjects in income-generating ventures that will add value to their livelihood.
By sponsoring six traditional leaders to attend a week-long training workshop on conservation farming in Zimbabwe, FQM is validating its vision for a prosperous North-Western Province.
Agricultural experts hold conservation agriculture as an environmentally-friendly set of technologies.
Reduced applications of agrochemicals under conservation agriculture lessen pollution levels in air, soil and water. Since this type uses resources more efficiently than conventional agriculture, the resources become available for other uses.
The significant reduction in fossil fuel use under no-till agriculture results in fewer greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere and lead to cleaner air in general.
According to the experts, farmers using conservation agriculture technologies typically report higher yields with less water and labour inputs, thereby resulting in higher overall farm profits.
The traditional leaders on the mission to Zimbabwe will certainly bring back home many useful lessons that chiefs and their subjects in other parts of the country will do well to learn from.
As Senior Chief Ntambo of Mwinilunga has rightly observed, this is the best time for Zambia to navigate into conservation farming methods to keep the production of food running.
The mining firm deserves praise for recognising the role that traditional leaders play in their communities.
Chiefs occupy lofty positions and are better placed to engage their subjects in matters of development.
Conservation farming is worth trying because it is part of Zambia’s solutions to hunger and poverty. OPINION