Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Kondwani Nankhumwa, on Sunday, February 25, 2017 led a delegation of members of the Parliamentary Committee on Rural Development on a familiarization tour of Likoma District, an island on Lake Malawi.
Members of the delegation included Malawi Congress Party (MCP) MP for Dowa South East, Harry Chipeni, MCP MP for Lilongwe Mapuyu South, Joseph Njobvuyalema, Dr. Francis Erick Lucious Mkungula, Ntcheu Bwanje North, Themba Mkandawire of Blantyre City Central, Tarsizio Gowelo (DPP), MP of Blantyre City West, Naomi Kilekwa, Mulanje South-east, and DPP MPfor Zomba Lisanjala Constituency, Enock Elias Luka.
Nankhumwa told Nyasa Times in an interview that the trip was undertaken to assess challenges the district faces and explore opportunities for its rapid social and economic development.
“The trip was an eye-opener and extremely revealing. The delegation interacted with various groups, including ordinary people, traditional, civil society and religious leaders, politicians and civil servants to appreciate their various needs and aspirations.
“We also attended a full council meeting where a number of areas of development were extensively tackled,” said the minister, who is also parliamentarian for Mulanje Central and Leader of Government Business in Parliament.
According to the minister, Likoma and its sister island Chizumulu, require special attention from government and other stakeholders because their developmental needs are quite different from the other districts. He said for example, the islands need a fully-fledged pipe water system unlike elsewhere in the country in some instances boreholes are drilled.
“The place is too rocky. Piped water would be the best source of potable water. The roads are bad and Likoma Islands needs tarmac roads as a matter of urgency,” said Nankhumwa.
He said during the council meeting, members brainstormed on how the council in Likoma can collect more revenue to finance development projects within the district. The minister said one of the ways was to take advantage of the many aircrafts that land on the island where they could charge some fee.
“The island receives a lot of tourists who fly in on aircrafts. The aircrafts land on the island for free, which is not supposed to be the case. They ought to charge some landing fees,” he said.
According to the minister, the parliamentary committee members who visited Likoma on Sunday will compile a report of their findings and recommendations for submission to government for action. He said the general consensus among the members was that there is need for a thorough policy review on Likoma, employing tailor-made solutions to the challenges facing the islands of Likoma and Chizumulu.
“For instance, we noted that the MK58 million annual budgetary allocation to Likoma District Council is way too little to cater for its needs. My personal wish is that the amount should be trebled in order to fully address the developmental challenges in the district,” he said.
Nankhumwa singled out transport between the island and mainland as the biggest challenge, explaining that, for example, basic food commodities are scarce due to transportation challenges. Access to Likoma is currently by boat or charter aircraft.
Likoma also has no reliable electricity as it relies on an ESCOM generator that is usually switched off frequently.
“We have a meeting at the ministry (Local Government and Rural Development) next week to do a policy review on Likoma. All the challenges shall be adequately discussed and map out the way forward,” he said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :