Chief Chikanta brings agricultural, financial, and health and HIV-related services to his chiefdom in Zambia
Chief Chikanta is proud of the accomplishments of his chiefdom and his people as he looks back over the past two years. In June 2011, Chikanta chiefdom was like most other chiefdoms in Zambia: grappling with high poverty levels and high levels of HIV, and with no clear roadmap for changing this situation for the better.
Since then, much has happened for this Kalomo District chiefdom, one of the most isolated in the entire country. Because of the decrepit state of the chiefdom’s roads as well as its limited telecommunications and electrical infrastructure, farmers who make up the majority of the chiefdom’s population had virtually no access to banking services and had great difficulty accessing agricultural inputs and resources. They did, however, have fertile soil and good rainfall, perfect for growing maize, and a chief who was determined to improve life for his people. Chief Chikanta and his people also had the support of the SHARe II project, which provided technical assistance and support during and after the strategic planning process.
The Chikanta Chiefdom Development Strategic Plan identified agriculture as the economic mainstay of the chiefdom, highlighting improved agricultural productivity, marketing, value-addition, and equitable participation as key areas of focus for agricultural development. Recognizing the difficulties that the chiefdom’s farmers faced and the associated high costs of buying and transporting agricultural inputs and products on the region’s poor roads—and cognizant that no one else would drive the development of his chiefdom except the people of Chikanta—Chief Chikanta went to the strategic plan to get guidance.
Drawing from what the chiefdom undertook to do in the strategic plan, the chief took matters into his own hands. He contacted agricultural and health stakeholders (which had been identified in the strategic plan) and invited them to an agricultural and health fair. The fair was held in a remote, hard-to-reach area of the chiefdom and was intended to give local farmers access to products and resources that could improve their crop yields, incomes, and health, on their doorsteps.
Chikanta Chiefdom had never held an agricultural and health fair, and the people of Chikanta were curious and intrigued. They trooped to the fairgrounds in the thousands to witness this novelty, not really believing that anyone else would turn up. To their amazement, the stakeholders came!
Investrust Bank Plc., which typically only offers services in major towns, responded to Chief Chikanta’s call and brought banking services to the fair, offering local farmers an affordable way to deposit money by allowing them to open an account with a minimum balance of only K10 (approximately $1.90 USD). The bank’s stand was overwhelmed with hundreds of eager farmers opening their first-ever bank accounts, giving them access to loans and investments, greater cash security, and more options for financial transactions. In another part of the fairground, Mwaroky HIV/AIDS Savers (a SHARe II partner) provided HIV testing and counseling (HTC) at a mobile station. By the end of the day, two counselors had provided HTC services to 128 people, and the two people who tested positive were referred to the local health center for additional HIV-related services.
Since the launch of the Chikanta Chiefdom Development Strategic Plan in November, Chief Chikanta has been on an aggressive campaign to market the plan and engage stakeholders to partner in the development of the chiefdom. He has also been invited to two World Bank meetings on rural development; as keynote speaker at one these meetings, he remarked: “we villagers are not afraid of hard work – partner with us to improve our roads, electrify our rural areas, and guide us on the ‘how-to’ – then leave the rest to us and we will work hard to drive our development.”
In August 2011, before Chikanta Chiefdom embarked on strategic planning, development seemed to be a distant dream, contingent on external assistance and on others’ terms and timelines. Now, Chief Chikanta and his people—through the Chikanta Chiefdom Development Strategic Plan 2012-2016, facilitated by the SHARe II project—are empowered to initiate and drive the development of the chiefdom, reaching out to agricultural, financial, health and other developmental partners - locally, nationally, and even internationally. They are connecting partners directly to the people of Chikanta Chiefdom for its continuing development, and are improving the residents’ standards of living.
|Related Project: Zambia SHARe II: Support to the HIV/AIDS Response in Zambia (2010-2015)|