CABBAGES AND EMERALDS – LUFWANYAMA’S GREEN TREASURES
Kagem marks International Day of Co-operatives on July 4
LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, July 3, 2015 – Aptly named farmer Greenwell Kafunga knows a thing or two about growing vegetables – his oasis of cabbages, carrots and onions gleaming as green as the precious emeralds mined a few kilometres away.
Mr Kafunga and his green-fingered neighbours are members of two co-operatives: Kapila Green Farmers’ Co-operative and Blessings Farm, set up to supply fresh vegetables to the workers at the nearby Kagem mine.
As the world’s largest emerald mine, employing more than 680 permanent workers, Kagem needs all the local supplies it can get to keep its operations running smoothly, hence its support for the community farming initiatives.
It is a win-win situation, with the 30 farming families in the co-operatives given a market for the produce that enables them to generate incomes and sustain their families.
“We grow about 23 different vegetables which Kagem then buys from us at fair market prices once harvested,” said Mr Kafunga, who is also Green Farmer’s co-operative chairperson. The farmers deliver the produce to Kagem once a week.
In addition to buying their produce, Kagem supported the farmers with initial capital and inputs in the form of loans, and continues with this support through regular roundtables that seek to improve the project even more.
“We thought if we were buying vegetables from Chisokone market in Kitwe; why not buy directly from the farmers here instead,” said Kagem Director of Operations CV Suresh. “Kagem works hand in hand with the communities around the mine, and we are keen to ensure that our support has long-term sustainable impacts. We sought to equip them with the support so that even their children and grandchildren will be able to benefit from it.”
The philosophy is well recognised by Mr Kafunga: “Kagem has given us an opportunity to provide for families. Before we had challenges with transportation and inputs, and the markets in town are very competitive. But with this arrangement, I have been able to send my kids to school, build a bigger house and acquire property in town,” he said.
With the poor rainfall around the country during the last rainy season the co-operatives expect to have a tougher time than usual this year. For the moment farming along streams has helped but Kagem together with the farmers is looking into a more long-term solution and is exploring options for a reservoir that will feed water to the gardens. This will call for the members to come together on a larger piece of farmland rather than scattered patches along the banks.
Although it will be one big farm, each member will be assigned a piece of land they will be responsible for.
Kagem is also working with the Ministry of Agriculture to encourage agricultural extension officers to help with educating the farmers on the different types of crop that they can grow in season as well as more effective methods of farming.
“Last year Kagem announced plans for a significant investment to improve the livelihoods of the people of Lufwanyama. We are now putting that vision into action in partnership with all our stakeholders. Education and health are key components of that vision, along with the conservation of our shared environment,” said Kagem and Gemfields Chief Executive Officer Ian Harebottle.
The company’s motivation is to benefit the people of Lufwanyama, and by extension improve the wellbeing of its workers, their families and the community in which the Kagem emerald mine is located.
The work is part of Kagem’s and Gemfields’ wider drive to pioneer the concept of responsible gemstone mining.
Kagem’s approach to its community development projects aims to ensure maximum impact through a long-term sustainable strategy which listens to the needs of local people and works hand-in-hand with community leaders, central and local government, non-governmental organisations and local residents.
The focus is on alleviating poverty and is aligned with government policies, objectives and targets as well as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Vision 2030.
Kagem has invested in a range of community projects, including provision of a ZESCO power line, teachers’ accommodation at Kapila Community School, improvements to Chief Nkana and Chief Lumpuma’s Palaces, and the Blessings and Green Farm projects. Kagem is also carrying out two new projects.
It is constructing a new Secondary School, including classrooms, administration offices, laboratories, ablution work, at Chapula, to improve and upgrade the existing Chapula Basic School. The project includes provision of overhead tanks and electrification.
The company is also building staff quarters, additional wards and ablutions to improve and upgrade the existing Nkana Clinic to a Health Centre. The project includes provision of overhead tanks and security fencing around the premises.
The approach is all part of Kagem’s strategy to be at the forefront of developing the international market for Zambian emeralds by investing in exploration, mining, sales and marketing in order to develop a competitive, reliable and trusted source of responsibly sourced gemstones that buyers can rely on.
Mr Harebottle said: “Kagem is the flag-bearer for the Zambian gemstone sector, and one of the finest examples of what can be achieved in partnerships between governments and foreign investors in the mining sphere. Our holistic approach is a vital part of that, as we work to ensure maximum benefit for all stakeholders in terms of financial, economic, social and environmental returns.”