…vil­lagers stand to lose huge tracks of land

Daily Nation Newspaper - - HOME NEWS - By BENNIE MUNDANDO

FARM­ERS in Si­na­zongwe are on the verge of los­ing over 100 acres of farm­ing land un­der the Nzenga ir­ri­ga­tion scheme af­ter a named com­pany, with the help of the chief, took over the op­er­a­tions of the scheme from the vil­lagers and then ap­plied for a loan from the Vi­sion Fund, us­ing the fa­cil­ity as col­lat­eral.

In 2007, the scheme was reg­is­tered as Nzenga Ir­ri­ga­tion Co­op­er­a­tive So­ci­ety Lim­ited un­der reg­is­tra­tion No. 14931 and in 2013, Govern­ment trained the farm­ers on how to grow crops us­ing ir­ri­ga­tion be­fore they sur­ren­dered their farm land to pave way for com­mence­ment of works.

Be­fore the scheme started op­er­at­ing, Chief Si­na­zongwe al­legedly con­nived with that com­pany and con­vinced the vil­lagers to sur­ren­der the op­er­a­tions of the scheme, al­leg­ing that Govern­ment had abol­ished co­op­er­a­tives and that all ir­ri­ga­tion schemes were to be run by pri­vate com­pa­nies.

He said the com­pany would run the scheme with the lo­cals and that those whose land had been given to the scheme would re­ceive div­i­dends af­ter each har­vest and that an out­grower scheme would be ini­ti­ated to pro­vide a ready mar­ket for the farm­ers’ pro­duce.

Satisfied that the idea would work to their ben­e­fit, the farm­ers sur­ren­dered the op­er­a­tions of the scheme to the pri­vate com­pany but that since 2015 when it started us­ing the scheme, none of the farm­ers have re­ceived any div­i­dends. When the farm­ers com­plained, the com­pany started push­ing for a loan from Vi­sion Fund us­ing the scheme as col­lat­eral af­ter the chief promised them that he would give them an­other piece of land in an­other vil­lage close to Lake Kariba.

When the vil­lagers heard their scheme was to be used as col­lat­eral they de­manded that a let­ter be writ­ten to the com­pany to stop us­ing the ir­ri­ga­tion scheme and not to use it as col­lat­eral be­cause it was in the hands of the com­mu­nity.

Vil­lage head­man, Thom­son Simukande, yes­ter­day told the Daily Na­tion in an in­ter­view that the vil­lagers had found them­selves in the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion be­cause the chief was not sin­cere as he had “sold their birth-right”. “Af­ter we dis­cov­ered that the com­pany wanted to get a loan us­ing our scheme as col­lat­eral, we told him to write to them and tell them to stop med­dling in our af­fairs. To­day (yes­ter­day), we de­manded to see a copy of that let­ter and to our shock, he lied that we had con­sented to the loan and we de­manded that he cor­rects that im­pres­sion be­cause that is not what we told him.

“We are very dis­ap­pointed with the op­er­a­tions of our chief but we want to make it clear that we would rather die fight­ing over our land than al­low­ing this chief and the com­pany to play games with our lives,” Mr. Simukande said. When con­tacted for a com­ment, Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Gift Sialubalo said of­fi­cials from the same com­pany had con­tacted him some time back ask­ing for as­sis­tance to en­able them se­cure a loan but that he told them to show him the doc­u­ments but that they had never done so.

Mean­while, vil­lagers in Si­na­zongwe vil­lage are also up in arms with the chief and have re­jected any ma­noeu­vres to force them to sur­ren­der their land to the same com­pany and have vowed of grave con­se­quences if the chief con­tin­ued with his idea of dis­plac­ing them from their land. In one of the let­ters dated Au­gust 20, 2018 which the chief wrote to the dis­trict com­mis­sioner af­ter an ini­tial at­tempt to dis­place peo­ple and pave way to the pri­vate com­pany to set up an ir­ri­ga­tion scheme was re­buffed, the tra­di­tional leader asked the DC to send po­lice of­fi­cers to ar­rest all those op­posed to the idea. “I am writ­ing to you DC. The pro­ject should start with im­me­di­ate ef­fect. The three fam­i­lies can­not stop the pro­ject from tak­ing off. These just want to cause a fight and must be ar­rested un­til the ir­ri­ga­tion pro­ject is com­pleted. Please, the po­lice must take charge,” reads the let­ter in part.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zambia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.