By Mwewa Shamatutu Mwansa
In the Northern part of Zambia bordering with the Democratic Republic of Congo lies an untapped district endowed with water and land for agriculture and livestock raring. As the rest of the country experiences drought, floods and drastic effects from climate change, Kaputa district still boasts of a rainy season from October to April, giving a growing season of 150 to 170 days.
Kaputa District has numerous rivers namely Mwawe, Mofwe, Choma and dambos suitable of providing irrigation water and has optimum temperature for plant growth throughout the year. These qualities make the district suitable for future agricultural expansion.
The district can be subdivided into three distinguished topographical features: plateau, the valley basins and wetlands. This characterises the potential for a lot of economic activities,
The inhabitants of the district have depended on capture fisheries as a source of livelihood for decades but the story has changed as the water sources have been over fished. This has forced them to embrace crop farming which has in the recent past taken over to become the main economic activity in the district.
District Commissioner Mulenga Fube has embarked on a mission to help change the mindset of the people of Kaputa to diversify their economic activities from the dying capture fisheries sector to the robust cattle raring activities that can get them out of the economic doldrums experienced over the years.
Mr. Fube unveiled this mission when Fisheries and Livestock Minister Professor Nkandu Luo visited the district to hand over cattle to livestock farmers under sponsorship from the Enhanced Smallholder Livestock Investment Progamme (E-SLIP).
E – SLIP moved into Kaputa to introduce cattle raring in 2017 after Chief Kaputa approached the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock to consider stocking cattle in the area as the fishing industry which his people depended on was fast grounding to a halt.
After the Programme assessed the suitability of the area for livestock, 32 animals where delivered in the district in 2018 and handed over to three farmer groups namely Chocha, Mumanga and Kawama.
The restocking programme is a ‘pass on’ and the animals have since calved and farmers were receiving the first calves from the original stock to continue multiplying them as individual households.
“Government does not believe that people should remain poor in this country as each district has different potential that remains untapped due to dependency on economic activities that our forefathers left us with,” says Minister of Fisheries and Livestock
Professor Luo urged the people of Kaputa to make this programme a success and change their mindset from raring cattle for consumption but to embrace the sector as one that will enhance their economic potential and help alleviate poverty amongst small scale farmers, the community and the country as a whole.
She said the district has the potential to grow this industry given the favorable climatic conditions and the interest that the inhabitants have so far shown in this economic activity.
She promised the people of Kaputa that her Ministry will bring in more than 120 animals so as to populate the area and begin growing the industry at a faster rate for the good of the country.
Meanwhile, Chief Kaputa called on the Ministry to consider putting up a breeding center for livestock in the district and that his subjects are more than willing to hold such a facility and also ready to keep animals such as dairy cattle.
He said the district has the primary resource needed for the growth of the livestock and aquaculture sector which is land and water.
Receiving cattle from Mumanga farmer group, Priscilla Mulenga, a beneficiary farmer thanked the government for coming up with this programme saying, the poverty that had ravaged the community and her household will now be a thing of the past.
Ms. Mulenga envisions a robust livestock sector in Kaputa district and that this will not only be for the good of the district but for Zambia as a whole.
She said such interventions from government should be encouraged throughout the country and Zambians must support these efforts if the country is to become the bread basket of the region.
“We are equal to the task of raring cattle here in Kaputa district, E-SLIP together with the Ministry staff have educated and trained us on how to keep and rare cattle” Isaac Chileshe, Chairperson for Katwesheko farmer group in Kawama area of the district explains.
Mr. Chileshe, however, bemoaned the lack of drugs for dipping their animals coupled with having a disused dip tank that was constructed in the area saying this poses a high risk of disease outbreak if the Ministry does not move in.
The dip tank is critical in ensuring that animals are properly vaccinated and protected from diseases such as Foot and Mouth and East Coast Fever.
Professor Luo called on the Ministry staff in the district to ensure that the dip tank was reinforced and secured to protect it from vandals within the area.
If livestock raring, crop production and aquaculture activities are adopted as serious economic activities in Kaputa, the district will soon become the breadbasket of the nation given its human population which stands at 86,367.