Ndola district commissioner George Chisulo has assured the more than 6,000 squatters in the forest reserves on the Ndola-Mufulira road that President Edgar Lungu has signed a Statutory Instrument of 2015 to open up the area for agricultural purposes.
Addressing squatters, Mr.Chisulu said the Government was waiting for their representatives to submit to Government the actual number of people requiring land to enable the Ministry of Agriculture start the demarcation exercise.
He said the decision taken by President Lungu was intended to spearhead the agriculture sector and promote food security at household level.
He said the Patriotic Front government was moving away from copper mining which the people of the Copperbelt Province had been dependent on.
He said the province had plenty of arable land and good rainfall which farmers should take advantage of by producing more agricultural products which they could market to neighboring countries.
Mr Chisulo said Government had amplified programmes such as the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) electronic voucher being piloted in various districts including Ndola.
‘‘Talk of infrastructure development which is key to any sector development, Ndola district has received its share of tarred roads, making it a land-linked area. The cost of transporting crops has been reduced and a farmer can take his merchandise anywhere on time,’’ he said.
Mr.Chisulo urged farmers in the district to participate in programmes being run by Government if diversity in crops and livestock was to be achieved.
He appealed to farmers in the area to develop the planned farming blocks once demarcated and not sell their portions.
Meanwhile, Mr.Chisulo has informed squatters in the Mwekera and Soweto forest areas that their appeal to have the forest reserves in which they have settled illegally formalized and gazetted was yet to be considered by Government.
He assured the squatters that it was President Lungu’s desire to see that people were empowered with land for them to contribute to national development.
He said Mwekera area had produced a fair share of maize during the last marketing season which had improved food security in the district.
He said land was an assert and for the squatters to increase production, they needed title to their land to enable them get loans to purchase farming equipment and increase food production.