By Staff Reporter- Local traditional leaders in Chisumbanje said the noise about displacement of their subjects from their ancestral land is based on misinformation by individuals who were using land that belonged to Arda.
Chief Tobias Garahwa of Chinyamukwakwa area who has about 85 headmen under his jurisdiction said his subjects have for many years accessed dry land that belonged to Arda which had been lying idle which it did not have the capacity to use it all.
With the coming in of the Green Fuel massive ethanol project this meant that villagers had to pave way for the sugarcane plantations and this led to a misunderstanding between the locals and green fuel who had encroached into Arda land.
“When green fuel came it was announced that they would use land that belonged to Arda but because the company did not have the capacity to use all its land, villagers took advantage of that and for years had been ploughing the land that did not belong to them,” Chief Garahwa said.
“So this created a lot of misunderstanding between the company and the villagers who now thought that the land belonged to them since Arda had not been using it.”
Chief Garahwa said the situation of displacement was made worse by some villagers who refused to embarrass some of the empowerment programmes that were introduced by the new company.
“We all know that Green fuel looked at our situation of erratic and inadequate rainfall in our area and undertook to empower the villagers by giving them 10% of the land and turning it into irrigation and offered villagers each 0.5 hectares.”
“Others embraced it while the few rejected it but when they saw how it had changed the lives of many, they started spreading unfounded allegations about displacements from ancestral land.”
His sentiments were also shared by Councillor Edmore Masiya Ward 28 who said if one looks at the yields that were coming from the land that was being used by the villagers has been low as compared to the one coming from land irrigation schemes allocated to the villagers and being supported by Green Fuel.
“The yields had been very very low because of the unreliable rainfall and most ended up just relying on cotton as their cash crop but cotton has low producer prices as well,” said Clr Masiya.
“The irrigation scheme which now meant that villagers put three different cash crops underground in one season, smiling all the way to the bank hence changing the lives of the locals.”
“I also want to add that no villager was displaced but it was just a misunderstanding between the locals because villagers were ploughing Arda land which over years had not been utilised.”
“So, when green fuel came, they just took all the land that belonged to Arda as part of their lease agreement, hence the conflict with villagers who for long had relaxed farming the land.”
In addition, at the commencement of the ethanol project, a massive infrastructure rehabilitation program was undertaken to revive the waterworks at Middle Sabi and 78 A2 and 48 A1 farmers came online to draw water along the canal.
The Company also rehabilitated 18 existing small-scale irrigation schemes, stretching 1,700 hectares from Mutema and Tawona to Chibuwe, and catering for approximately 2,300 farmers.
The rehabilitation work centred on repairing and replacing water pumps, drilling additional boreholes to augment water supplies and the reconstruction of water conveyance systems.
A community irrigation schemes water engineering department run and financed by Green Fuel continues to see to the day to day needs of the schemes in terms of water conveyance.
A number of farmers have taken up contract farming in bananas for Matanuska and are doing extremely well.