Choma District

INTRODUCTION

Choma is a market town in the Southern Province of Zambia, lying on the main road and railway from Lusaka to Livingstone. It is home to a small museum dedicated to the cultural heritage of the Tonga people of southern Zambia. The population of Choma town is said to be about 40,000 people and it serves as the commercial hub for the central region of the province. Choma town is also the headquarters of a district and lies at 1400 metres above sea level.

Choma District forms the heart of Southern Province because of its central location, but more so due to its important role in the economy of the southern province within the Republic of Zambia.

The District lies approximately within longitudes 260 30 and 270 30 east of Greenwich, and latitudes 160 and 170 45 south of the equator on the plateau of southern Zambia and covers a total area of 7,296 square Kilometres. It shares boundaries with six other districts in the province namely: Namwala in the North, Pemba on the Eastern side, Gwembe in the Northeast, Sinazongwe in the South and Kalomo in the West. The district is predominantly rural and agriculture forms the mainstay of its economy.

Administratively, the district headquarters are in Choma township while there are two sub-centres namely: Mbabala, situated at approximately thirty- two (32) Kilometres North along the Choma – Namwala road; and Batoka situated at approximately twenty- eight (28) kilometres east of Choma township along the Great- North Road; Politically, Choma district is divided into two (2) constituencies namely: Choma central and Mbabala in the Northern part of the district. The district is further divided into twenty- five wards and these are:- Kulundana, Simacheche, Batoka, Sikalundu, Mubula, Stateland, Sikalongo, Nakeempa, Singani, Siasikabole, Siamambo, Namuswa, Moomba, Masuku and Simamvwa in Choma central constituency; others are Simaubi, Ngonga, Mapanza, Mung’unza, Chilalantambo, Mbabala, Macha, Nchembe, Mutanga and Kabimba in Mbabala constituency. 

TRADITIONAL AUTHORITY

Like every district in Zambia, there exists a traditional authority (chiefdoms) in Choma District. The main chiefs’ areas are Macha, Mapanza, and Singani (Cooma). The chiefs’ areas are further administered according to villages under the leadership of village headmen who act as the chiefs’ representatives. There is a total of 446 villages in the district which can further be broken down as follows: Macha chiefdom has 72 villages, Singani chiefdom has 137 villages and Mapanza Chiefdom has 56 villages (CSO, 2000).

CLIMATE

Most of the district lies at 1400 metres above sea level. This district is found on the high ground with a typical climate of southern Zambia of temperatures between 140c and 280c, Sunshine ranging between 9 and 12 hours per day. The highest temperatures occur between the beginning of October and the end of December. In normal instances when the rains start, temperatures tend to fall, partly because of the rain and partly due to the often heavy cloud cover. The lowest temperatures are usually recorded in June and July.

The rains generally start in the middle of October and continue through up to the beginning of April. Rainfall reaches its peak around January after which it diminishes slightly up to the beginning of April when usually it ceases entirely. There is an average rainfall of 800mm, of which 369mm, fall between January and February. There are, however, variations in total rainfall and rainfall patterns from year to year and even in a particular season. These variations can have a major impact on crop yield in the different zones in the area. Humidity falls to about 33% until the onset of rains in October after which it skyrockets to about 77% in February. Humidity nosedives once the rains cease in April. The wind is predominantly from the East and South- West, and to a lesser degree from the North- East. The strength of the wind from these directions can be comparatively strong.

 

 Map of Choma

POPULATION

The district projected population for Choma is 269,963 (2015 CSO Census) of which 134,640 49% are males and 135, 724 which is 51% are females. The population density stands at 28% per square kilometre.

A large part of the district population is found in rural areas (80%) as compared to urban areas (20%). However, there is a high concentration of the population along the line of the rail where most of the economic activities take place.

The most dominant ethnic group in the district are the plateau Tonga who are found in every part of the district. A mixture of the Ila and the Bawe, which are dialects of Tonga exist mainly in the eastern part of the district. However, recent migrations from other parts of the country have brought a representation of most tribes, especially in urban Choma.

The pattern of settlement has been highly influenced by the existence of a number of commercial farms, which surround the district especially along the line of rail. The Great North Road passes through the district, dissecting it into two uneven parts. Within a radius of up to 100m, farms surround the district while the rest of the hinterland accommodates arable land for the small-scale type of agriculture.

LOCAL ECONOMY

The majority of the population in Choma is engaged in agriculture as a source of income. The main economic sectors in Choma are driven by agriculture, trade and commerce and tourism. The agricultural sector plays a significant role in the local economy of Choma and Southern province in general. This is seen in the number of both commercial and small-scale farmers we have in the district.

The informal sector is characterised by fish trading, trading in second hand and new clothes and footwear, trading in vegetables and other food types, beer brewing, carpentry, trading in groceries, restaurants, bars and charcoal burning and selling.

INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT

Under infrastructure, the district has seen a number of projects that have been undertaken by the Council and other corporate partners including government. One of the projects that the local authority embarked on was the renovation and improvement of the Choma Council Administration Block at a cost of K688, 000.00 which has since been handed over to the council by the contractor. The project was funded using the 20% capital component of the equalization funds received from the government. The other project constructed using the 20% component of the equalisation fund was the public ablution block located in the central business district of the town at the cost of K488, 170.14. The ablution block has also been handed over by the contractor to the council and the council will soon open it to the public for use.

The rehabilitation and upgrading of selected Urban Roads (30 km) to bituminous standard in Choma district has remained at 25% to about 30%. Works stopped just before the commencement of the rainy season and the status is that most of the roads have been damaged due to the heavy rains experienced this past farming season. The main reason forwarded by the contractor for stalling of works was due to erratic funding by central government. The government has since paid the contractor about K25 million from the balance owed of K35 million, the contractor indicated that will only get back on site after payment of the full amount owed.

Choma district with support from KFW a German Development Cooperation has supported the council with 574,106 Euros for the construction of a Bus Station in Town. The contract has been signed with Rankings Engineering Consultants and feasibility studies have been conducted and the report and design of the bus station submitted to the council. The actual construction is likely to start in June 2017 at cost K4, 190,973.00. The Land for the bus station was given to Council by Provincial Administration to construct a Bus Station but Zambia Railways is claiming to be owners of the land Plot no. 1404 near Makalanguzu area. After a meeting which held with the Permanent Secretary to help in resolving the matter, a letter was written to clarify the ownership status of the land and Zambia Railways have since been written to facilitate the transfer of the land to the council for purpose of processing title deeds.

TOURISM

The Choma museum contributes towards the collection, documentation, exhibition, preservation of the heritage of Zambia. The Choma museum is committed to the preservation of physical and intangible heritage through the education department for the past six months in culture symbols of peace and unity a programme established to do research. Due to its significant contribution to the preservation of the history and culture of the Tonga people, the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs through the National Museum Board on 12th November,2016 declared Choma Museums as a National Museum. This is because CMCC has a history of over 44 years as a community museum mainly focusing on the culture of the Tonga plateau by documenting the social effects of the Kariba dam on the Gwembe Valley.

The national status opens avenues to look at a wider constituency other than the southern province. CMCC is no longer a Regional facility but has assumed a National Character & Focus. The museum organizes an art gallery which it hosts every quarter just to promote local artist and help develop art as a source of livelihood.

The museum has also take an initiative in its endeavor to continue contributing towards the legacy of the political history the people of Southern province played in Zambia, a statue of one of the veteran political will soon be unveiled at the museum as a symbol of peace and unity, the Nkumbula statue. It is envisaged that the status of the museum will be enhanced and increase on the patronage and visits by tourists, researchers, academicians and historians.

There are several lodges and guest houses in Choma Township that have come up ever since Choma was declared a province capital.

AGRICULTURE

Choma district consists of both commercial and subsistence farmers. Most commercial farmers are located along the main road and near the central business district. While the majority of the small scale famers are situated along the line of rail and in the outskirts of the district. Most of the farming communities in the district are in the category of small scale farming. They cultivate a wide range of crops such as maize, sorghum, vegetables, groundnuts and cotton grown in the district.

Choma District has a total of 835 Primary Co-operative Societies and one District Co-operative Marketing Union which is open for all Primary Co-operatives to affiliate its membership.

Choma has five agricultural blocks and 27 camps as shown in the table below:

Block Name Number of Camps Number of Zones Number of Villages Number of Households Number of Farmers
M F Total
Stateland 4 32 50 5,015 3,128 3,608 6,736
Singani 7 56 152 8,547 6,444 6,821 13,265
Mbabala 6 48 179 6,052 4,722 10,774
Batoka 3 24 86 2,416 2,700 2,898 5,598
Mapanza 7 56 175 6,983 6,286 13,269
Totals 27   216 642 25,307 24,335 49,642

LIVESTOCK TYPES AND POPULATION (Ruminants, Non- ruminants and Fowls) and MANAGEMENT OF LIVESTOCK

Choma district has a total land area of 4278.04 square kilometers with a population density of 34.0/ km2 and has 17400 farming families of about 30% are female headed house-holds. More than 70% of the livestock belong to the traditional sector. The livestock production in Choma is in three categories; namely commercial, emergent and small-scale.

The table below shows the distribution of livestock:

SPECIES Cattle Goats Sheep Pigs Poultry Dogs Horses Donkeys Cats
Population 139301 63923 6238 65218 296718 13481 71 187 3124
H/holds involved 14302 9171 242 2446 2071 7 43

FARMER INPUT SUPPORT PROGRAMME

Choma is one of the district that is implementing E-voucher in the distribution of agricultural inputs, this past 2016/17 farming season, a total of  25,364 beneficiaries were selected to collect inputs. Among Items, the farmers were supposed to collect from agro dealers include fertilizer, Seed, Agri implements, Fingerings, Livestock Feed, and Vet Drugs. The diversification in terms of inputs/items is so as to encourage our farmers to diversify from just growing maize to venturing into other cash crops that have high economic benefits.

The farmer was/is contributing 400 kwacha and the government is putting in 1700. The value of the card is 2100 kwacha. The majority of the farmers have successfully redeemed their cards. Out of the 25, 364 beneficiaries, 22, 365 have had their cards activated while 1041 beneficiaries are yet to be received. Choma is remaining with less than 1, 958 beneficiaries yet to redeem their cards.

No of Beneficiaries No of Farmers without Cards No of Farmers Deposited No of Farmers (Cards) sent for Activation No of Cards Activated
25,364 2,500 23,399 22,143 21,069

FORESTRY – FARM FORESTRY FACILITY PROGRAMME (FFF)

The Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) is a multi-donor program, hosted by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In Zambia, the program is implemented in collaboration with Forestry Department (FD) and Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU). It is being implemented in two pilot districts namely Choma and Mwinilunga.

The two activities being implemented among others is the formation of a charcoal Association and promotion of tree nurseries for commercial use and Agroforestry by local communities. Three institutions have so far received grants under this programme as below;

  • Kalonda Agroforestry and Beekeeping group received K82,900 for capacity building in Beekeeping
  • The Mbole Rural Development Initiative group received K96,200 for capacity building in Tree Nursery
  • Forestry Department received K85, 800 for capacity building and up scaling tree nurseries to already groups or individual practicing Tree Nurseries. From the funds received so far, only mobilization meetings have been done

ENERGY
Choma town has seen an increase in the number of developments coming up from 2012 to date. This increase in both population and economic activities has result in the growth of the energy sector. The demand for power and other energy products in the district has resulted in a number filling stations coming up and also the demand for charcoal has also increased. Choma town has five filling stations which are operating and one is under construction just as you enter the township from Lusaka.

Wood fuel (firewood and charcoal) remains the dominant source of energy in the district, accounting for almost 70 percent of total energy consumption. Firewood is predominantly consumed by rural households while charcoal is a major source of energy for urban households. The annual loss of forest cover which has been on the increase is due to land clearing for agricultural use rather than energy purposes.

HEALTH

The district has continued to perform well and is striving to deliver quality healthcare to the general populace in Choma. The district currently has an institutional capacity of 33 Health Centres/Post dotted over the entire district and others still under construction. At each facility, there is an average of 5 NHCs which is bringing the total number in the district to approximately 160 NHCs. About 60% of the NHC have been trained while the remaining 40% is yet to be trained.

Furthermore, the district has two health institution hospitals in the district i.e. Macha Mission and Choma General Hospitals.

LAND ISSUES

Choma District is an agriculture area with good soils and favorable rain pattern. It is centrally located within the region with four major roads leading to Lusaka, Namwala, Livingstone and the Valley. The district lies on a plateau with receiving above average rains each year, and has relatively humid temperatures. The soils are fertile enough making agricultural activities quite profitable. It is therefore, the main producer of maize; and with commercial farmers around, tobacco and cotton are leading cash crops produced in the district.

After the declaration of Choma as a provincial capital in 2012, the district has seen an increase in population resulting in pressure on the existing infrastructure services such as commercial and housing. The demand has been worsened by the fact that the township boundary only extends by about three to five (5) kilometres on either side of the township. In the quest to solve the problem of the shortage of land in the Township, the private farmers on many occasions were engaged but to no avail.

The need to provide land for housing and other developments has been on the increase and putting pressure on the local authority to look for land for the expansion of the town. The shortage of housing has come to the attention of government thus the recognition of the fact that decent housing or shelter is a basic human need. The rapid population growth combined with rural-urban migration country-wide has seen the population of Choma town increasing from 36, 420 in 2000 to 53,135 in 2010 signifying an increase of 45.9%. This has also resulted in the increase in the number of households from 4078 to 11,272 showing a 56. 7% increase. This means that the number of plots/houses needed is growing faster than the rise in population, putting additional strain on land and infrastructure.

Choma District has currently has no burial site as the two cemeteries i.e. Mawagary and Bani (Singani Masuku Road) are full. The council is still in talk with the traditional leadership over land for the cemetery in order to address the challenge it is faced with.

In conclusion, Choma District aims at promoting balanced development, coordinated through a decentralized and coherent process. The District has made progress in implementing economic and social investment programmes in all wards of the district. A number of schools, health posts, a district hospital, dams and feeder roads have been constructed and/or rehabilitated. The district is hoping that with the involvement of all the key stakeholders, it will be able to meet the current challenges it is facing and create an environment where the people of Choma will thrive.