Tuesday, June 25, 2024

ZAMPALM Transforms Chief Kopa’s area

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The livelihood for the Bisa people of Mpika have been transformed in the last six years thanks to the impact of the fast-growing Zampalm palm oil plantation.

Situated in the sparsely populated area of Chief Kopa’s chiefdom in Mpika, Zampalm has been a catalyst for economic growth and development in the area that looks set to prove a role model for sustainable agribusiness projects across the Southern Arica region.

The community, which traditionally engages in cassava farming, fishing and hunting for sustenance, was faced with numerous challenges due to the remoteness of the area from markets and lack of transportation before Zampalm began operations in 2009.

The chiefdom was cut off from the rest of Zambia due to poor road networks. This posed a major challenge for trade as inaccessible roads discouraged traders from coming to the area. Residents relied on farming, fishing, hunting and gathering of caterpillars for survival. The caterpillars are a great source of protein and were sold to secure income for the households.

“Little trade and financial resources existed in the area owing to the transport factor with only six grocery stores available in 2008. The roads were inaccessible and not many were willing to come here, now the area boasts 51 or more of such stores,” explained Zampalm plantation manager Trusted Mwiinga.

A major employer in the area, Zampalm has over 400 permanent and seasonal workers with 80 per cent coming from the Chiefdom and several households benefit directly and indirectly. It employs 30 percent women at is plantation to work in the nursery on lighter jobs and the number is expected to increase as the oil processing factory starts fully functioning and harvesting begins in August.

Communication and infrastructure have also greatly improved since Zampalm’s arrival, with mobile operators and ZESCO moving into the area to offer services to the people in Mpika as a result of increased activity.

“We expect to see a lot more development as the plantation and milling plantation operations gain momentum,” said Mr Mwiinga.More co-operatives have come up in the farming community with a focus on more diverse crops such as maize that does not employ the ‘slash and burn ‘chitemene system. With the weekly transport that Zampalm provides to Mpika Boma, farmers and traders are able to transport more of their goods between the two locations.

“There was no communication network, proper accommodation, roads or power in the area when we arrived,” explained Zampalm plantation manager Trusted Mwiinga.
Since Zampalm was launched in 2009, there have been significant changes, with new shops springing up, a growing economy and more stable livelihoods for the local community. Residents have also been able to afford to send their children to school and seen their diet and health improve.

“With the compensation received under the relocation programme as well as livelihood provided through employment, families can now educate their children and improve their houses, with thatched roofs replaced with iron sheets; some children are now going to high school; people can buy new clothes; and health has improved,” said Mr Mwiinga.

Residents were also able to benefit from skills training in various areas surrounding the operations of the plantation with Zampalm taking the time to train the general work force with the skills needed to operate machines as well as field techniques such as wedding, spraying, chipping and construction. Most of who had never worked before, making the training an essential undertaking for a safe working environment.

“Absenteeism was a challenge at first with workers knocking off as and when they wanted to look for edible caterpillars when they were in season so they could sell them for an income. But with time they understood that work at hand and adjusted their lifestyle as such,” said the plant manager.

Health remains a major concern; the area has two government health posts that are 15 and 20 km away from the area. Zampalm has however stepped in to provide transport for patients to travel to the clinic including an ambulance to Kopa clinic and Mpika District Hospital.

Zampalm has various projects lined up to uplift the local community with an outgrower scheme using Zampalm seedlings and fish farming in the works.
The Zampalm project was launched in 2009 and currently has some 370,900 palms planted over an area of 2,612 hectares in the main plantation, with another 39,000 seedlings in the main and pre-nursery. Zampalm owns 20,238 hectares of titled land, and the intention is to plant a total of 4,812 hectares in 2017 and similar areas in subsequent years as the business grows.
A 2-tonnes-per-hour crushing mill was built this year, with plans for a second 2-tonne plant in 2017 and a further 10-tonne plant in the following year, taking crude palm oil production up to 17,000 tonnes a year.

The total investment cost is estimated US$41.5 million, of which Zambeef has spent US$20 million so far. At current prices the average production of crude oil of 3 to 3.5 tonnes per hectare could generate more than US$170 million in revenue over the next decade.
The market for edible oils in Zambia, of which palm oil is one component, is estimated at 120,000 tonnes per year, and this is expected to continuing growing as the country develops further.
More than half of Zambia’s edible oil consumption is imported from the Far East, East Africa and South Africa.
Palm oil is the world’s most used vegetable oil and has many different uses in addition to cooking oil. Palm oil and its derivatives are found in foods such as margarines and ice cream, used as a thickener, preservative and antioxidant; as well as in personal care products such as shampoo, and cosmetics; industrial products such as lubricants paints and inks; and as a renewable fuel.
Once fully operational the plantation will contribute to substitute 70,000 tonnes of imports of cooking oil into Zambia, saving the country around US$70 million (K511 million) of foreign exchange outflows every year.

While Zambia is not a traditional growing region for palm oil, lower yields are expected to be outweighed by the competitive advantage of being closer to consumers in the region given that the cost of importing edible oil from the Far East can account for around a third of its retail price.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Good news for Kopa residents. Next should be Nabwalya area. Maybe our Bisa relatives can catch up with us on the Lubemba side of Mpika.

    • Ba Lsk times are you on the Zampalm or Zambeef payroll? I ask that obvious question because you seem to be giving them too much credit for nothing. Any investor especially one given 20,000 hectares is mandated to employ locals and 400 is too small a number. Zampalm/ Zambeef are just useless racists that have conned Zambians into believeing they have the best interets at heart don’t be fooled, these guys are ready to poison you if they can get away with it. Why haven’t they put up a clinic? Since 2009 they have been operating there but no clinic and no decent accomodation for their workers. Those temporal workers how are they paid? Do they have safty clothing? I tell you they are paid a pennace no more that K400 for those that report each day. Don’t cheat us!

    • And the best part of that plantation is management. Wonderful people.
      2 years ago, I gave a “lift” to a family going to Kopa, I was going to Samfya, so at that junction the family told me “awe Tata tepatali twendeni mutufishe”… I complied. Yayayayaya it was far!!
      Half way, we met a land-cruiser from the farm, and we exchanged, I gave them their workers (the family), what I got in return, is unexplainable. Not money… Just GRATITUDE!!
      I knew that whatever is going on in Kopa’s palm plantation is a success. Next time I will reach there and GET MYSELF A JOB!!!

    • 20 20 vision you are very right. It is not unknown for media houses to be given money so that they can carry positive stories about the briber. In the US whenever the public finds out about such a scam it usually spells the end of business for that newspaper or radio station because readers will boycott it. I don’t know about Zambia

  2. Much as the program is good and will help in a number of ways, however,much need to be done by ZAMPALM.The corporate social responsibility is not done as expected.
    Build clinics and schools in the area, mantain the road from Mpika to Mapoma, which is in a deplorable state,but you use it daily to ferry fertilizer and other farm requirements,and stop deducting fictitious NAPSA and other related false deductions from poor casual workers wages.
    Very few local people are employed at senior level, most of them are from outside Mpika district.
    That is my area and stop cheating people !

  3. It all sounds like positive development.

    We must look into fair wages that support people in our economy and near the national average.

  4. I suspect the usual nonsense. Firstly the local collection and trade in caterpillars is at risk; instead of encouraging it they are encouraging the locals to abandon their local ways of life. Typical of how Musonda was renamed William or Joseph… The next thing they will be told to use their salaries to purchase milled grain and abandon growing their own. Pathetic!

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