Monday, 12 November 2018

Conservationist Replants Mukula Trees in Muchinga Province

Mr Simwanza inspecting his nursery
By Paul Shalala in Mafinga

The Mukula tree is an indigenous tree in many parts of the country.

The tree, whose scientific name is Pterocarpus Chrysothrix, grows in people’s backyards and in most cases, villagers do not realize its potential.

It is a tree which has been growing in Zambia for thousands of years.

But its importance has only been discovered now after the influx of the Chinese.

This has led to its indiscriminate cutting and the increase in illegal exports.

The fear now is that the tree maybe wiped out.

And now, a conservationist in Mafinga District of Muchinga Province has started a plantation of 20 thousand Mukula nursery for future use.
Mr Steven Simwanza, who is a manager at a lodge in Mafinga, started a nursery for Mukula trees last year.

“We started this nursery last year and so far, we have sent 17,000 trees to Lusaka and here we have more than 2,500 trees. We want to conserve this tree and preserve it for the future,” said Mr Simwanza.

A check at the nursery found that a number of trees had dried up while a large number of them are growing well.

“It takes 50 to 60 years for a Mukula tree to grow and be marketable but even at this tender age, they can be sold.”
The author posing with a Mukula tree

And Government has authorized Mr Simwanza to expand his nursery to ensure that more indigenous trees are replanted.

“We are promoting the replanting of indigenous trees. We do not want them to be extinct that is why we authorized this nursery and we are encouraging more people to start replanting these trees,” said Mafinga District Forestry officer Kennedy Banda.

In the past few months, the Zambian government has deployed soldiers from the Zambia Army in strategic places to stop the illegal sale of Mukula trees.

Soldiers mount check points 24 hours a day on major high ways to stop the transportation of Mukula, a tree which fetches millions of dollars on the international market.

According to industry experts, all parts of the Mukula tree are lucrative.

Asians use its back, the stem and leaves for various use such as furniture and medicine.

In Zambia, trading in Mukula is illegal but those who have been caught transporting it have had the trees confiscated and their motor vehicles forfeited to the state.

The Zambia Forest and Forestry Industry Corporation (ZAFFICO) has been selling confiscated Mukula trees in the far east on behalf of the Zambian government.

Last week, Lands and Natural Resources Minister Jean Kapata disclosed in Parliament that ZAFFICO had so far raised $4.3 million from the sale of illegally harvested Mukula logs in China.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Climate Change Reduces Honey Production In Muchinga

By Paul Shalala in Mafinga
Mr Nyondo displaying little honey he has harvested

Beekeepers in Muchinga Province are likely to make loses this year due to the adverse effects of climate change which has made bees eat their own honey.

In Mafinga and Isoka Districts, beekeepers have told this blogger that due to the unexpected strong winds and high temperatures, bees have stopped coming out of the hives and are eating their own produce.

This is a huge drawback for some residents whose main occupation is beekeeping.

With its dense woodlands, Muchinga Province is a perfect place for beekeepers to conduct their business.

In Mafinga District alone, 45 farmers are full time honey producers.

These farmers were first trained in honey production by the Department of Forestry in 2005 and they have been keeping bees for business for 13 years now.

Every year, they harvest honey and make money.

But this year, business is hard.

“We are making losses this year due to winds and high temperature. The bees are not coming out and this will lead us to losses. Because they are not coming out, they are eating the honey inside the hives,” said Lenwick Nyondo, the Chairperson of the Muleya Beekeepers Association in Mafinga District.

Mr Nyondo says the change inweather will affect his earnings this year.

“In a typical year, I make between K10,000 and K20,000 but this year, we may be down to K5,000,” he added.

For authorities, the effects of climate change on this lucrative business is very worrying.

“From my frequent tours in the district, beekeepers are complaining of climate change. The weather has really affected them. But we are hopeful that maybe next year the farmers can have better business than this year,” said Kennedy Banda, the District Forestry Officer for Mafinga.

Apart from Mafinga, Isoka is another district in Muchinga Province which has been affected by climate change.

Here too, beekeepers are crying of reduced yields due to high temperatures and wind.

For a number of honey producers, honey badgers have also brought down their hives, dealing a big blow to their business.

At Mr Nyondo’s farm, two hives were spotted on the ground after they were attacked by honey badgers which are common in the area.

Beekeeping is a relatively new business in Muchinga Province.

In Zambia, the North Western Province leads in the production of honey due to its unending woodlands and favourable climate.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Zambia Pilots Digital Provision Of ART Services

US Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote (left) displays
the smart care card in Ndola. -Picture courtesy of the
US Embassy Facebook page
By Paul Shalala in Ndola

With the advancement in technology and the implementation of Smart Zambia, the Ministry of Health has also gone digital.

Gone are the days when clinics and hospitals in Ndola used to keep paper files for people living with HIV and AIDS.

These files had information on the client’s viral load, health condition and how often they are accessing Anti-Retroviral  drugs (ARVs).

Today, the Ministry of Health is piloting smart care, a system which allows people living with HIV to swipe and collect drugs.

In a project spearheaded by Equip Health Zambia, a United States government funded project, this new system is revolutionizing service delivery in the health sector.

Using this pharmacy card, clients can walk to either a private pharmacy or a government clinic to access these life saving drugs.

The whole process is now digital and there is no more paperwork involved.

At Lubuto Clinic, the programme has already been unvieled.

"We have already been connected here. Clients come here and we record all details on this system using the smart card. Then they can collect the drugs anywhere where the cards are accepted," said Sianga Sianga, a Strategic Information Assistant at the clinic.

Smart care has become so efficient that authorities are now thinking of extending it beyond its current reach.

Even the stigma which came with people living with HIV queuing for drugs at clinics has now been done away with.

"We no longer have queues here. People just come with their cards, they are attended to and leave," added Mr Sianga.

United States Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote recently visited a Medical Stores warehouse in Ndola where smart care is being implemented.

Here, the envoy was taken through the whole process of the smart care system.

"So if am a patient, i come with this card and present to you, is it very effective?" asked the envoy.

The Ambassador was briefed that the system has been so effective that authorities wish it can be extended to other facilities.

So far, 14 government clinics and hospices as well as six private pharmacies are using smart care to deliver ARVs to their clients.

Private pharmacies at Kansenshi, Rekays, Kafubu, Villa and Jacaranda Malls are now connected to smart care and people living with HIV go there to collect these life saving drugs.

Meanwhile, the United States government will invest US$385 million in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Zambia this year.

United States Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote says the American government is investing close to $400 million dollars in the health sector to ensure that access to health is increased.

Speaking at the launch of the 2018 US President's Emmergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Country Operational Plan in Ndola's Kantolomba Compound, Mr Foote said the money being invested will help patients reduce distances they cover to access health services.
Dr Chilufya commissions the Kantolomba Clinic as US Ambassador
to Zambia Daniel Foote looks on -Picture courtesy of
Ministry of Health Facebook page

He said the investment will also help in reducing congestion at health centers when patients go to access medical help.

The American envoy also disclosed that his government has so far invested US$ 3.5 billion dollars in the last 15 years in Zambia to fight HIV and AIDS.

Mr Foote noted that Zambia's leadership in the fight against the disease is very commendable.

And Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya described the United States as Zambia's number one strategic ally in epidemic control.

Dr Chilufya said the American government has been very helpful especially in infrastructure development which has led to the increase in health delivery.

The Health Minister said the US$385 million the United States Government is investing in Zambia will help the country meet its health targets.

Dr Chilufya says the first task under the funded programs will be to escalate HIV interventions among adolescents both male and female.

The Health Minister said the American funding will help increase the number of people on Anti-Retroviral Therapy from the current 890,000 to 1.2 million by 2020.

He further disclosed that no allowances will be paid to health workers as they implement health programs funded by the US government.

Dr Chilufya says health workers have a salary and no allowances will be paid to them in order to ensure the money is used for the intended purpose.