12 January 2013

Zambia: Isolated Luano On Verge of Opening Up

THE newly created Luano District is made up of two distinct areas, the Luano Valley from which the name of the district is derived and the semi-plateau Old Mkushi.

The Luano Valley is one of the most isolated areas in the country which can perhaps only be compared to the old Shang'ombo in Western Province.

Reaching there one has to drive over an escarpment and deep valleys and gorges which literally speaking separate the area from the rest of the country.

Luano Valley, which borders with Lower Zambezi National Park in the south, is an extension of the Great Rift Valley of east and central Africa.

It is replete with wild animals like the Kudu and Sable together with leopard, lion and other species. In terms of rivers there is Lunsemfwa, Lukusashi and Mkushi.

Yet some people live there and have chosen it as their permanent home.

They have good reasons for doing that!

Senior Chief Mboroma of the Lala speaking people whose chiefdom is right in the interland of the valley recently said jokingly that he could not move away from the area to go to the semi-plateau Old Mkushi because he was "eating well".

Perhaps on average only one vehicle per fortnight passes through the single mountain track otherwise called a road and that should be in the dry season.

Just about 90 kilometres between Mkushi Boma and the valley the road is bad with streams and rivers without proper bridges while the terrain is unexploited and remote.

The only thing that reminds the people of the existence of the Government somewhere is a Government primary school and grant-aided mission rural health centre based at Ching'ombe, the epitome of the valley.

Generally, the people there do not have much support and most of them never leave the valley throughout their lives. They are actually born, bred and buried within the area.

According to Baynards Zambia Trust (BZT), a United Kingdom-based charity which supports a series of specially selected long-term projects in the area and helps beneficiaries in becoming self-reliant, Luano Valley has massive potential.

The Luano Valley may be remote, but it is fertile and endowed with plenty of water.

For Old Mkushi on the other hand, the terrain is relatively friendly but equally devoid of any sign of modernity save for some Government basic schools, a police station and a rural health centre.

The biggest common denominator for the two areas are the many years of neglect by successive Government administrations including the colonial masters who, in 1956, moved the Boma from Old Mkushi to Chibefwe the current district headquarters.

It was for that reason that on September 16 2011, President Michael Sata while campaigning for September 20 2011 elections promised to give the peoples of the two areas a district, which would be a motor vehicle for the development of the area.

True to his words on December 6 2012, he declared the Old Mkushi and Luano valley as a district called Luano.

Some people attribute the fame of the name Luano to the rise of the Mailoni brothers who have been terrorising the people of Luano Valley and committing atrocities such as murders.

Last week the people of that new district converged at Old Mkushi and unanimously endorsed the proposed boundary of the new district and location for the centre where the district administrative offices should be.

Noting that the creation of districts will help in emancipating the rural dwellers from the pangs of poverty, villagers and other people who hail from the area said they were elated by the Government's gesture.

The stakeholders and residents' consultative meeting was attended by nearly all the nine traditional leaders from Mkushi district, where Luano district formerly belonged.

"The Mkushi District Development Association would like to sincerely thank our Republican President, His Excellency Mr Michael Chilufya Sata for giving us Luano district.

"The Luano District should be a very effective tool to opening up and developing the Luano valley and surrounding areas which have untapped rich potential in human capital, tourism, agriculture and mineral wealth, among many others," said association chairperson Kalunga Lutato.

Dr Lutato told the meeting chaired by Mkushi District Commissioner Christopher Chibuye that there was need to constitute an independent think tanker of stakeholders to help in the implementation of various measures aimed at a quick attainment of a full district status for the area.

He said the association was ready to work with the Government in ensuring that the exercise to turn the area into a district moved smoothly to ensure quick delivery of development.

"The Luano District authorities, once in office, should immediately start working on all-weather roads into the various chiefdoms in the district to reach their royal highness, as and when required as well as to ease communication between the district headquarters and other parts of the district," Dr Lutato said.

In his contribution Senior Chief Mboroma called for unity among all the subjects to ensure development in the area.

Senior Chief Mboroma said the area had lost its district status after the colonial masters decided to move the current Boma, saying he was happy that in his life time Old Mkushi had regained its position.

Several other people who spoke thanked the government saying the declaration of the area as a district was the only way of developing it and bringing the government closer to the people.

Former Agriculture minister Ben Kapita who hails from the area hoped that one day the Government would give the area another district specifically for the three chiefdoms, Mboroma, Chembe and Mbosha, who are based in the valley.

Mkushi South Member of Parliament Sydney Chisanga said he was happy that President Sata had listened to the cries of many local people on the issue.

Officially opening the meeting Mr Chibuye said a committee constituted by district stakeholders and government officials proposed that Old Mkushi should be the centre of the new district because of its locality, existing facilities and endowments.

The proposal was adopted without any debate.

On the area, Mr Chibuye said the committee proposed that the new district should be composed of five chiefdoms namely, Mboroma, Kanyeshya, Chembe, Mbosha and Kaundula leaving Mkushi with Chiefs Chitina, Mulungwe, Shaibila and Chikupili.

After a heated debate on the matter, the majority of the people felt that there is need to constitute the new district in line with the current political boundary for Mkushi South which has six chiefdoms namely, Mboroma, Kanyeshya, Chembe, Mbosha, Kaundula and Chikupili.

To other people the creation of the district will open up Luano Valley and expose the area's massive tourism potential and minerals which have remained untapped for a long time.

Two ward councilors from the valley said the area has enormous potential in tourism which would now be exploited following the declaration of the area as a district.

Ching'ombe ward councilor, Josephat Mumba Mukosha and Chipawa ward councillor, Felix Mambwe said in an interview on the sidelines of the meeting that the area could greatly contribute to the growth of the tourism sector.

Mr Mukosha whose ward is located in Senior Chief Mboroma's area said the valley had a lot of wild animals and the splendid scenery which could attract tourists if well marketed.

The tourists can visit the area for game viewing and to admire the beauty of the landscape.

"Luano valley has a lot of potential in wildlife and mineral resources which have not been tapped for the benefit of the Luano people. The wildlife will help attract tourists to the area," he said.

On mineral sources, he said the area boasts of various metals which can be mined at commercial level but the sector in the area had not attracted any investments.

He said that the area, however, needs to be opened up through the provision of modern facilities which will be able to make it hospitable.

Mr Mukosha said the area needed a proper road network with various social facilities like health care and shelters.

"The road from Old Mkushi to Ching'ogmbe must be upgraded. So should the road from Mulungwe to Mboroma up to Ching'ombe and Shikabeta. Old Mkushi-Chembe road should also be upgraded.

"This is the only way Luano Valley can develop," he said.

Mr Mukosha said the area needed other modes of communications like the mobile telecommunication services and radio reception which currently are non-existent in the valley.

There is need for Government to come up with a deliberate way of wooing investments to the valley to help change the economic landscape for the area.

Separately, Mr Mambwe whose ward is in Chief Mbosha's area said following the declaration of the area as a district the people were highly expectant in terms of development.

The residents of the valley do not depend on rain-fed crop for the livelihood because of the perennial floods which sweep the crops during the rainy season.

Instead the residents plant their crops, especially maize, which they water using traditional irrigation systems like the use of buckets.

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