Friday, April 20, 2012

High poverty levels worry E/Province PS

High poverty levels worry E/Province PS
By Christopher Miti in Chipata and Fredrick Mwansa in Itezhi-te
Thu 19 Apr. 2012, 12:57 CAT

EASTERN Province permanent secretary Hlobotha Nkunika says one of the key challenges facing the province is the high poverty levels particularly among rural communities.

Speaking when United Nations resident coordinator Kanni Wignaraja paid a courtesy call on him at his office in Chipata yesterday, Nkunika said poverty levels had been very high in the province since independence. He said one of the contributing factors was underinvestment in rural areas.

"There hasn't been serious infrastructure investment which could be very important for the development of the country, and if we look at the road network, it's very, very bad and that's one of the key areas that we have to improve in our services. There is also need to promote rural and local investment because that is not fully promoted in rural areas," Nkunika said.

He said although the province was doing well in agriculture, the rural farmers were facing difficulties because improved technology was not there.

"This problem is coupled with the poor marketing strategy which is there; the farmer has to suffer for him or her to find correct market and the correct market price with limited access in transportation and so on. The poor road network was also an additional problem," said Nkunika.

And Wignaraja said every province had a range of opportunities and challenges that could not be tackled at once.

She wondered why hydropower was not generated in the province despite having a good water table.

Wignaraja said hydropower was a real answer to the energy problems.

Later, Nkunika said there was need to add value to the products being produced in the province.

"We do not want to be exporting our raw materials; we want to add value, let us have finished products that are coming out. Like for cotton for example, we want investors who can start from the raw material up to the finished product so that from that chain we have a lot of employment opportunities. So those ideas are already there, there is a farm block in Lundazi that is going to look at the cotton production," she said.

Wignaraja, who is on a tour of the province, also paid a courtesy call on the provincial medical officer, Dr Kennedy Malama, before touring Chipata General Hospital.

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