CHONDWE Prison Farms has broadened its food production.
THE massive investment by the Government and other stakeholders in the area of agriculture at Chondwe prisons has brought about commercialisation of prison farms, especially on the Copperbelt.
Chondwe Prisons Farm, a hub of fresh agricultural produce in the Copperbelt food basket will soon start competing with other commercial farmers in the region.
The open air prison which is situated 35 kilometres from the city of Ndola, administratively under Masaiti district, is well-known for farming.
Chondwe Prison's Open Farm was gazzeted as a prison farm in the year 1970 and has about 400 hectares of land and is one of the prisons with the biggest catchment areas in the region.
The open air prison that grows maize as a major crop on a commercial level is now broadening its production from cereal into leguminous crop production.
The government purchased irrigation centre pivots, a truck and a bulldozer, all at the cost of K8.1 billion (KR 1.8 million) in September last year to increase efficiency and production of crops and other produce.
This is what has attracted service organisations such as the Ndola Mukuba Rotary Club which late last year, donated and installed an equipped borehole with a submersible water pump, stand and 10,000 rota tanks at the cost of K75 million(KR75,000) to improve access to clean water at the prisons farm.
This was indeed a great investment by the Government and the Rotary club in an area of agriculture, a major contributor to the economic development of the country.
Copperbelt region Prisons Service Commission assistant commissioner Wilson Mbewe said the prison was putting 100 hectares of land under irrigation by the centre pivot system in categories of 50, 30 and 20 hectares
He said the pivots have been assembled between 30 and 20 hectares on their respective sites with preliminary works remaining on the 50 hectares centre pivot.
"We have worked very hard for this project; very soon the assembling of the pivots will be completed. These pivots will irrigate our first crops in April this year," he said.
He said the prisons would be able to grow cash crops such as soya beans, wheat and vegetables throughout the year.
Mr Mbewe said the commercialisation of the farm was a clear demonstration that Chondwe Prison has become the food basket of the Copperbelt Province and it shall compete favourably with other commercial farmers.
Chondwe prison superintendent, officer-in-charge David Bilukeni said the farm had in the 2011/2012 farming season produced 3,774 x50 kilogrammes of maize from the 50 hectares of land cultivated.
He said the prisons farm had gone into fish farming and was doing a pilot project with six fish ponds that were excavated last year.
Mr Bilukeni said the prison would engage in gardening activities and grow onions, tomatoes, cabbage and had an orchard with bananas and oranges.
He commended the Government and the Rotary Club for investing in the prisons farm and added that projects were the first since the gazzeting of the area.
Chondwe Prison was hit by an erratic water supply inadequacies for both domestic use and irrigation of vegetables and other cash crops.
The prisons farm only depended on the rainy season to grow its cash crops.
It is now sunny days for the area, the installation of the irrigation pivots on 100 hectares land and the 10,000 litre borehole would allow the farm to grow cash crops and vegetables throughout the year.
The 10,000 litre borehole donated by the Rotary Club was meant to improve access to clean water at the prisons and the surrounding community.
In the past, the prison was getting water for both domestic use and irrigation from the nearby streams in the area.
Ndola Mukuba Rotary Club president Victor Chimuka said the gesture was brought to the club's attention after members visited the prisons a few years ago and realised that there was great need for the area to have easy access to clean water.
Mr Chimuka said water was life even for those that were serving sentences and having access to it would bring about economic development in the country.
The prison's farm has a total of more than 1,000 people in the community and about 200 inmates. The commercialisation of the area through massive investment by the Government and other stakeholders will indeed bring about economic development in the area and the country at large.