opinionBy John Mubambe
ALTHOUGH the Zambian economy has been driven largely by the mining industry over the years, the agricultural sector has been just as vital to the country's economic development.
The economic development of a country refers to a long-term improvement in living standards, increase in income levels as well as better delivery in education, health and environmental protection.
With the new Government making it clear agricultural development will feature prominently on its national agenda, First Quantum's Kansanshi Mine in Solwezi has embarked on a programme to help promote food security and alleviate poverty.
Kansanshi Mine has so far engaged its Kansanshi Foundation to spearhead agricultural projects in North-Western Province and Solwezi in particular.
One of the pillars of the Foundation is to implement livelihood projects within displaced communities and needy localities.
Through economic development projects, the Kansanshi Foundation assists communities in acquiring skills to help them build their own business entities without any further attachment to the foundation thereafter.
By so doing, the foundation seeks to increase sustainable human development through the use of appropriate technology with minimal negative effects on the environment.
At Kakasha Resettlement Area, the Kansanshi Foundation is involved in a new public-private partnership set-up to help resettled farmers boost the area's food production.
Matthew Blair, the Kansanshi Foundation Supervisor-in-charge of the Conservation Livelihood Model at Kakasha Resettlement area, said during a media visit to the area that the objective of the foundation is to improve the lives of Solwezi residents through sustainable community development.
He explained that the resettlement project at Kakasha forms part of a relocation and resettlement scheme taken on by the mine to ensure that the people displaced from their land due to the mine's expansion can get on with their lives and not be adversely affected by the relocation.
"A part of the foundation's commitment is to assist communities to become more environmentally sustainable, through economic development dedicated to improving the quality of life for everyone without degrading the environmental support system," explained Blair.
What is most important, Blair explained, is that the Kansanshi Foundation aims at improving the lives of those who have been displaced, through skills development programmes that are sustainable.
Currently, there is a conservation farming programme going on through which technical advice is offered to farmers to help them improve the quality of their yields, as well as better their farming techniques. It is the first programme of its kind, put in place specifically to improve the lives of the community.
The key idea of Kansanshi Foundation, Blair said, is to "achieve a concept of Conservation Village/Livelihood Model, whereby the community will be totally self-sufficient whilst having a minimal effect on the environment that they live in."
The Kansanshi Foundation is being funded by Kansanshi Mining PLC for infrastructural development and agricultural projects in areas on the outskirts of Solwezi.
Sub-Chief Mbonge Kakasha has been awarded a Demonstration Plot located within the land provided for the resettlement of those displaced by the mine. It is meant to serve as an example to teach local farmers and those displaced on conservation agricultural activities such as land preparation.
No doubt, Kansanshi Mine's corporate social responsibility programme is indeed fulfilling its mission of placing conservation agriculture high on its priority list to contribute to food security in the areas surrounding the mine.