By Moses Nyati
Chitambo District Agricultural Coordinator Katumwa Mutandi has called on farmers in the district claiming for dividends of K10, 000 in the newly formed Luombwa Irrigation Scheme Company to exercise patience as the project is still in its infancy for it to declare profit.
Addressing various stakeholders who included among others, heads of government departments, the traditional leadership, the area Member of parliament, the District Commissioner and board members of Luombwa Irrigation Scheme Company, Mr Mutandi said it takes time and sacrifice to build capital and assets to reach a point when profits can be made in a farming venture.
‘This means that as members of the Scheme, sacrifice will have to be made to ensure the scheme stabilizes’’ he said
The District Agricultural Coordinator thus dismissed claims being peddled by some shareholders alleging that the board and Company owned them the sum of K10,000 each.
Mr Mutandi clarified that at no time did the Company or the Board enter into such an agreement with any of the shareholders as the interests of the shareholders was vested in the executive committee for Luombwa Water Users Association.
He wondered how a company could declare dividends of such amount when it had failed to generate profit in the last two farming seasons.
The DACO explained that during the 2019-20 farming season, the Scheme had planted 358ha of paddy rice and only managed to harvest 7,691 bags by 40kg from the projected 24,000 bags thus representing a loss of 68 per cent.
He added that following the sale of the crop, the Scheme managed to raise K995,820 against the production cost of over K2, 000,000.
The DACO said due to the loss, the board during one of their meeting unanimously agreed to reinvest back all that was raised during the 2019-20 farming season so as to ensure sustainability of the project bearing the fact that the Agricultural Productivity and Market Enhancement Project (APMEP) was winding up its support to the Scheme by next year.
Mr. Mutandi further said in an effort to ensure continued sustainability, the Scheme has scaled up its hectarge from 358 hectares last season to 450 hectares in the 2020/2021 farming season of which it is expecting to harvest over 1,200metric tonnes of paddy rice.
Speaking at the same event, His Royal Highness Chief Chitambo lauded government for introducing rice growing in his chiefdom saying the new technology has brought development in his chiefdom while at the same time contributed to improved food, nutritional and income security for the people of Chitambo.
Chief Chitambo thus challenged his subject to rise to the occasion and make Chitambo a rice basket for the nation and he further looked forward to a time when Chitambo would have its own rice brand like Mongu rice.
He cautioned his people not to sabotage the good works being done at the Scheme as they were meant to improve the livelihood of people in Chitambo.
Meanwhile, Chairperson for Luombwa Water Users Association, Chesha Kunda who at the same time serves as board member for the Scheme lamented at how some shareholders could be used as weapons to destroy the good intentions of the project.
Mr Chesha disclosed that since the inception of the rice project, over 800 farmers so far have been attracted to venture into rice production and that the Scheme alone last season provided 400 direct jobs to the surrounding community.
Luombwa Irrigation Scheme Company is a rice growing scheme being supported by government through the Agricultural Productivity and Market Enhancement Project with financial support from the Global Agricultural and Food Support Program (GAFSP). -NAIS
By Moses Nyati