By Martin Musunka
Chiefs in North-Western Province say the deliberate policy by First Quantum Minerals (FQM) to continuously engage traditional leaders to help empower the local communities will transform the region and poverty levels will drastically drop.
Speaking before departure for Zimbabwe for a conservation farming course last weekend, the six traditional leaders said in separate interviews that the community engagement by the mining company was a clear indication that they cared about the welfare of the local people.
Kansanshi Foundation Institute (KFI), a wing of First Quantum Minerals (FQM) sponsored six traditional leaders for a one-week training course at Foundations For Farming in Harare, Zimbabwe.
The traditional leaders are: Senior chiefs Chizera of the Kaonde people in Mufumbwe, Kalilele of the Lamba people in Solwezi, Sikufele of the Lunda people in Kabompo and Manyinga. Others are chiefs Chibwika of the Lunda people in Mwinilunga, Ntambo of the Lunda people in Mwinilunga and Musaka of the Lamba people in Solwezi.
Last year, another team of chiefs from the province — Senior Chief Mujimanzovu and chiefs Mumena, Mulonga and Kapijimpanga — also went for a similar programme, courtesy of KFI.
This initiative was instigated by Bruce Lewis, the Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for Kansanshi Mining Plc and Mike Corken, Agriculture Manager for KFI, in an effort to cast a wider net across the province and involve the greater population in conservation farming.
Senior Chief Chizera saluted Kansanshi Mining Plc for facilitating the training course on conservation farming. He said traditional leaders in the region will always appreciate the engagement by FQM through KFI.
He said he would ensure that the knowledge acquired from the course trickles down to his subjects so that they could effectively embrace the concept of conservation agriculture.
The senior chief said if his subjects would wholeheartedly buy into the concept of conservation farming, then they would depart from poaching which is rife in his chiefdom.
“I am happy that Kansanshi has thought of engaging us in this positive manner of going for a course in agriculture so that we can come and teach our people how it is done. This will help a great deal because some people tend to go poaching with an excuse of lack of funds. If they can go into farming, then it will help in reducing levels of poaching,” Senior Chief Chizera said.
He said he had already started the planning process on how he would disseminate information on conservation farming to people in his chiefdom.
Senior Chief Sikufele said the initiative of getting chiefs in North-Western Province together to go on an educational trip was happening for the first time since Zambia attained independence and that Kansanshi deserved to be commended for a good job.
His selection as a traditional leader for such an important trip was not easy. He pledged to encourage his subjects to embrace the new natural style of farming.
He said what was so significant in the whole process was that Kansanshi Mine had not only considered chiefs that were in their catchment area but invited even those from far-flung areas.
“First of all, the whole concept is a noble one and we shall go for it and ensure that we get all the information about conservation farming which we shall, likewise, come and teach our people.
“Kansanshi has not been discriminative in the selection process as we have been considered from far and wide, which is good,” he added.
Senior Chief Kalilele said the beginning of the project to roll out the information to the subjects may not be easy but with time, everyone would be expected to be conversant with the exercise.
Chief Chibwika said he did not expect to receive the invitation to go for the course and is now convinced that Kansanshi Mine’s CSR was not only about Solwezi but beyond and they are good corporate citizens.
“I appreciate the gesture by Kansanshi Mine to consider me for this important programme to learn about methods of conservation farming. For a moment, I could not believe that I was being sponsored for the programme by Kansanshi Mine who are based in Solwezi but I appreciate that they do not only think about activities in Solwezi but beyond,” he said.
Chief Ntambo said the world was changing and as traditional leaders, they were also expected to adapt in order to be in tune with the new trends, and in this case, they would be familiar with conservation farming.
“The whole world is adopting new techniques on how things are done and we will not be left out. I will come up with committees to ensure that all the information is received by my subjects,” Chief Ntambo said.
Chief Musaka said Kansanshi Mine is renowned for its good CSR programmes in areas where it operates and the engagement of chiefs for such an outing was evident of the community work that the company promotes through the Kansanshi Foundation.
He promised to ensure that all the communities in his area were well-organised to implement the knowledge to be acquired from the conservation farming course in Zimbabwe.
“I did not expect that I would go for such a course and I am grateful to Kansanshi Mine. What is also important is for us to keep our communication lines open so that our progress is also monitored for the benefit of our people,” he said.
The venue of the training – the Foundations for Farming centre on the outskirts of Harare, has been operating for 15 years under the guidance of Brian Oldrieve, the pioneering ‘father’ of conservation farming. The First Quantum Conservation farming programme is modelled upon Oldrieve’s principles, and the KFI trains approximately 3,000 farmers in conservation farming annually.
The chiefs were accompanied by their retainers and Kansanshi Mine Communications Officer John Mubambe and were seen off by KFI.