The United Liberal Party (ULP) is calling on government to develop a Marshall Plan to help accelarate development in Western and Luapula provinces.
And the ULP is calling upon government to introduce policies that will facilitate the development of competitive small-scale milling facilities in maize producing rural areas around towns and villages where maize sheds were built during the government of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda.
In an email statement to the Watchdog, ULP president Sakwiba Sikota says:
“The Marshall Plan we are proposing is similar to the “Marshall Plan” for Europe, announced 60 years ago by US Secretary of State George C. Marshall on June 5, 1947, which set Europe on a path of economic development and ultimately led to the formation of the European Union. Our “Marshall Plan” should be called the “Zambia for All Plan”.
Sikota says, Western and Luapula Provinces have consistently emerged as the poorest provinces in most surveys conducted by the Central Statistics Office with the incidence of poverty remaining between 75 and 84 percent of the total population.
“This is not to say that other provinces should be excluded from the development agenda of the country. “We are simply calling on government to put Western and Luapula Provinces as priority areas in the development process in order of agriculture, health, education and directing investment from the Foreign Direct Investment projects,’ he said.
“The ULP feel that in order to get greater equity within the country it is necessary to pay extra attention to the two least developed provinces in the country. The aim of any government should be to ensure that no province or region is left behind in development. The statistics we have show that the two provinces which are lagging behind in terms of development in Zambia are Western and Luapula Provinces.
“Compared to other provinces Western and Luapula Provinces are least developed in terms of education, agriculture, health infrastructure, road infrastructure and Direct Foreign Investment which is channeled to the province. There is a need for Government to increase funding in these areas so that Western and Luapula Provinces can catch-up with the rest of the country in terms of development,” reads part of the statement.
According to the statement, In surveys conducted by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on the access to basic amenities such as safe drinking water Western Province has the lowest percentage per household.
“For example Western province has the lowest proportion of households with access to electricity which stands at 3.5 percent. Yet electricity is one of the major sources of energy that can help accelerate development in the country.
“The proportion of households without a toilet facility is highest in Western Province at 53.4 percent, followed by 33.2 percent in Southern Province and 21.5 percent in Eastern Province. Lusaka Province has the largest proportion of households with access to safe water (96 percent) while Northern Province and Western Province have some of the lowest proportions of households with access to safe water in the country. Luapula Province has some of the highest deficiencies in nutrition among children resulting in stunting levels well above the national average of 54.2 percent. Luapula Province also has levels of poverty above 75% of the population.
“The “Zambia for All Plan should deliberately target groups that represent medium and low-income groups who are in the category of subsistence living. The targeted groups should not be less than 50 000 households, representing the rural population. The “Zambia for All Plan” for Western and Luapula Provinces should also aim at reaching directly to at least 15 000 farming families in each Province including those living below the subsistence level.
“Funds should also be provided in the “Zambia for All Plan” to target female-headed households which have been on the increase as a result of high HIV/AIDS infection. Investment in health should also target women and girls because they are the most vulnerable in terms of HIV/AIDS infection. The poorest provinces in Zambia deserve all the necessary efforts from government to reduce the high levels of poverty. Government should include the “Zambia for All Plan” for Western and Luapula Provinces in the “6th National Development Plan” for the country.
And ULP has challenged all the other political parties to publicly declare their commitment to having the least developed provinces being given special attention which will bring them to simillar levels of development with other provinces.
Meanwhile, the United Liberal Party (ULP) is calling on government to introduce policies that will facilitate the development of competitive small-scale milling facilities in maize producing rural areas. The small scale milling facilities should be set around towns and villages where maize sheds were built during the government of Dr. Kaunda.
ULP president Sakwiba Sikota says the structures of the maize sheds constructed in the second Republic are still standing and only require to be rehabilitated to capacities that meet specific consumption requirements of a particular catchment area, town or village.
He said that in any case, most of the maize grain is produced by small-scale farmer located in rural areas with maize shed facilities.
“The ULP is calling for introduction of small scale milling facilities because the current pricing and marketing systems in Zambia have encouraged the development of highly centralized and concentrated maize-milling facilities in urban areas, which have in turn promoted the distribution of highly expensive maize meal to rural towns when compared to that which could be produced at the small-scale milling facilities.
“Some of the facilities could be set-up jointly between government, FRA, Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU), cooperatives and the producers of maize in the targeted places. The private sector should also be encouraged to set up small scale milling facilities in rural areas to promote quality and efficiency.
“The small scale milling facilities should be set-up alongside the maize sheds to ensure a consistent flow of maize meal for rural and peri-urban consumers at lower prices which are capable of being controlled and stabilized by the producers and consumers of maize grain themselves.
“These small scale milling facilities will create opportunities to substantially reduce marketing costs at other stages in the maize-meal marketing system not controlled by big milling companies. The small scale milling facilities will result in less handling of the maize grain. The benefits of the small scale milling facilities will include increased food security at district and village levels.
“The cost of transporting the maize grain to millers and thereafter to the consumer will be drastically reduced. In the last few days we have seen an increase in fuel prices which means increase in food prices which can only be mitigated by not constantly moving the product around the country. The wastage of maize grain as a result of moving between the producers and millers will be a thing of the past and most importantly the cost of maize meal in rural areas will also be reduced,” suggested the ULP president