By Hicks Sikazwe
Mpulungu, a small district in Northern Zambia, sits more than 1000 kilometres from the capital city Lusaka.
It is the country’s only port, as it clings at an end tip of lake Taganyika, the world’s longest fresh water lake and global second deepest after Baikai in Russia, the town is a gateway, by boat or ship, to the Democratic, Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Burundi.
The Liemba is an ancient passenger and cargo ferry (ship) which floats between the three countries to share merchandise, Kapenta and even tourists. To Mpulungu and Mbala residents, the Liemba Ferry, has for years been a symbol of glamour, a source of goodies and temporary employment.
This is the outpost where just a few months back President Edgar Lungu commissioned Lunzuwa Hydro-power station, bringing hope to an area only known in the past for the outward bound training school, but for years ignoring its potential in agriculture, tourism and wild life development.
The $52 million upgraded station will now supply power to Kasama, Mpulungu, Mbala, the newly established district of Senga Hill and surrounding villages, spurn on an average radius of 200 kilometres and beyond.
“We will take development to all corners of the country,” declared President Lungu during an address of a gathering that witnessed the event.
A senior official from Zesco the country’s power utility firm said at the of commissioning ceremony , the project sited along the Lunzuwa River, was part of the power plants upgrade in the Northern circuit to increase power by 100 mega watts.
The project jointly effected by ZESCO and government involved the decommissioning of the existing 0.75 megawatts plant and upgrading it to 14.8megawatts.
Fostering the gist and purpose of rural electrification President Lungu implored the power utility firm to ensure that Lunzuwa served villages, clinics and schools in the area.
It was imperative, he added, that Zesco provided rural Zambians with affordable electricity. Chief Zombe, hailed the project as a positive step in changing the face of the region.
Desperate power consumers in Kasama, the Northern Provincial capital, Mbala and Mpulungu, accustomed not only to disruptive power surges, but low voltage supply into homes and business houses welcome the upgrade as a major boost in the commercial, industrial and sprouting construction sectors.
Villages in chiefs Chinakila, Tafuna and Zombe are likely to immediately benefit from the facility as at the moment a number of both primary, basic and secondary schools have emerged but are all not able to afford solar systems to help run science laboratories.
Chief Chinakila’s areas boasts of growing of maize, millet, sorghum, cassava, rice, oranges, sweet potatoes, and beans. With power supply the above activities are likely to multiply as the area will open up to new small scale and bigger investors.
The area also has limitless sources of honey and requires a commercial infusion of activities to exploit. Tourism remains largely untapped because of poor or lack of transport.
For years villagers in the area have had to be stuck with their crops for lack of market and inaccessible roads. The nearest market is Kasama as Mbala and Mpulungu are further.
The new district of Senga Hill should rapidly and immediately provide needed change to the face and profile in the area as there would be need for a good road to run from Senga Hill to connect with the palace at Chinakila.
The new district will provide endless opportunities in construction infrastructure from roads, housing units to office blocks. Therefore electricity from Lunzuwa hydro-power station will play a pivotal role.
With Lunzuwa power supply at the door steps of many rural families. fishing activities in Mpulungu and the rest of Chief Tafuna’s area will flourish and see a sharp very increase not only in food sufficiency among the locals but enough for sale.
The area around Isoko and neighbouring villages grow sugar canes, the activity will move a step up with the electricity facility just down the hills. More development is required in villages down south like Vyamba, Kasasi, Fungala, Kanungwe, Mululwe, and a lot of other settlements, they will all want to tap electricity from the Lunzuwa power grid if they are to improve their lot. Already new schools clinics and health centres have been constructed and they we need will energy.
At Vyamba, the secondary school has just been upgraded into a boarding school to include pupils from senior grade, therefore power supply there will be a vital component in this positive development.
The area hosts a health centre where with room for admitting expectant mothers, but there is no electricity there so many needed facilities that need power cannot be improved or supplied. Agriculture is one of the many activities providing livelihood for thousands around the area, which is also host to a farming cooperative liaison office.
The office would do with modern necessities such as computers and mobile communications but without power these cannot be provided too but lack of power supply has always held back progress and development.
On the other hand villages in chief Zombe’s area with all Mambwe chiefs, other than general agriculture are famous for pastoral farming. Getting Lunzuwa power there will improve dairy farming and open up to diversification of milk products.
Generally with the countrywide construction boom, improved power supply in the three towns of Mpulungu, Mbala and Kasama will see an upsurge in economic activities. Already in Kasama there is small scale excavation of building type of marble stone called Kasama stone. With more power in the provincial capital, the Kasama stone activity may open up new avenues for more players and subsequently increased employment opportunities.
There were at one time exploration activities along the Mbala- Nakonde road. Though held at low key, villagers along that stretch speak of discoveries of amethyst, which they claim is still mined there.
So with available cheap electricity in those three towns, there will be an economic turnaround in most parts of Northern Province which in retrospect will benefit Zambia as a whole and help fulfill government desire to take development in all corners of the country.