Minister of Tourism and Arts, Rodney Sikumba says government is implementing a World Bank funded project aimed at boosting tourism in Liuwa Plain National Park of Kalabo district.
Mr Sikumba says the project includes among others the refurbishment of Kalabo airstrip, construction of a bridge across Luanginga River at Kalabo harbour and improving accommodation in order to attract and service the tourist clientele who visit the park.
The Minister said this recently when a multisectoral and cross-functional team of ministers paid a courtesy call on Kalabo District Commissioner Musangu Njamba.
“Our mission is coming to see the plans we’re about to embark on based on government assurances that we made in the 2022 national budget. This particular project is three-fold and answering to the challenges being faced in Kalabo regarding access into Liuwa (Plain) National Park,” he said.
Mr Sikumba expressed optimism that the infrastructure project was being coordinated by the Ministry of Finance and National Development and that it would play a crucial step in continuing to grow the economy and specifically the tourism industry, bring greater investment, and create jobs in and around Liuwa, Kalabo district and Zambia at large.
“Finance and National Planning minister, honourable Situmbeko Musokotwane, did mention in the 2022 national budget that government would take minimal infrastructure development to such places like Kalabo airstrip,” he said.
Mr Sikumba stated that the project is part of government’s vision to develop the Western Tourism Circuit through infrastructure development.
The Minister noted that the park is an emerging tourism hotspot because the expanse of grassy plain of Liuwa annually hosts one of nature’s greatest spectacles and Africa’s second largest migration of Wildebeest hence the need to vigorously market the landscape.
“Liuwa Liuwa (Plain) National Park is endowed with a lot of wildlife species. But the park has not been marketed to its fullest. Thanks to African Parks who have partnered with government and the Barotse Royal Establishment to see how they can rejuvenate the park,” he said.
Mr Sikumba noted that once the western circuit is fully promoted and utilized, the length of stay by tourists would increase from the current four to seven days and stimulate socio-economic development.
“In all these projects we’re doing, we want the local community to buy in so that once the numbers of tourists grow and revenue starts to grow, the people of Liuwa and Kalabo in general benefit and put food on tier tables,” he said.
The Minister however bemoaned that there was urgent need to replace the existing manual driven pontoon at Kalabo harbour with a bridge in order to improve road network and tourists’ access into the park.
Mr Sikumba has further bemoaned poor infrastructure in Liuwa Plain National Park which he said has resulted in limited accommodation for tourists.
“The infrastructure within the national park is very minimal. If we’re going to have a lot of people coming into Liuwa, they will not be able to find accommodation,” he said.
Mr Sikumba was accompanied by Finance and National Planning minister Situmbeko Musokotwane, Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Elijah Muchima as well as Water Development Minister, Mike Mposha.
Others were Western Province Minister Kapelwa Mbangweta and Northern Province Minister Leonard Mbao.
Meanwhile, Kalabo district commissioner Musangu Njamba expressed optimism that the ministers were determined to address the lack of transport, infrastructure and accommodation which continue to hinder growth of the booming tourism sector in the area.
Mr Njamba further noted that government must be commended for the positive highlights to develop transport and road infrastructure in Kalabo district, Western Province and Zambia as a whole without leaving anyone behind.