THE Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) has allegedly abandoned a K2, 560,000 aquaculture project in Nchelenge district, leaving fishermen stranded.
In 2013, CEEC disbursed K2, 560,000 to 32 groups of fish farmers in Nchelenge where each group was expected to receive K80, 000 for fish ponds and fish cages.
Nchelenge fish farmers’ representative, Mwale Mukanga said CEEC only constructed fish ponds and cages on behalf of the farmers and the remaining K816, 200 meant for procuring fingerlings “disappeared” as no single farmer could access it.
But CEEC public relations Manager Glenda Masebe said the Commission had so far purchased 262,000 fingerlings valued at K63, 820.00 from the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock for distribution to small scale farmers under its programme including the farmers in Nchelenge District.
Ms Masebe said the Commission would continue purchasing fingerlings for the small scale farmers as more fingerlings become available from the Ministry of fisheries and livestock.
“In response to the inadequate availability of fingerlings on the market, the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock has embarked on a programme to produce fingerlings for small-scale farmers throughout the country,” she said.
Ms Masebe said CEEC in line with Government job creation and industrialization strategy had provided business loans to targeted citizens.
“As part of this programme the Commission is providing support to citizens to undertake investment in aquaculture. As such the Commission has disbursed a total of K17, 039,946.32 to 307 fish farmers in Ten (10) districts of the Country,” she said.
Ms Masebe explained that out of the amount a total of K4, 743,223.04 had been disbursed to small scale fish farmers in Nchelenge District.
“These Funds have been utilised by the small scale fish farmers for establishment of fish ponds and fish cages and purchase of Aquaculture equipment,” Ms Masebe said.
But Mr Mukanga said CEEC had given the groups strict conditions that no groups would have direct access to the funds from the time the ponds and cages were constructed to the time of fingerling procurement.
“The most surprising and stressing thing is that the CEEC abandoned this project in Nchelenge, but introduced the same kind of project in Mwansabombwe. How possible is it that this project (in Mwansabombwe) will work out if the one in Nchelenge was not implemented,” he said.
Mr Mukanga disclosed that although the contractor working on the fish ponds was engaged, the process was marred with irregularities as the fishermen were not directly involved in the payment transactions.
He said CEEC were the only ones who had access to the farmers’ accounts and paid the contractors directly on their behalf.
Mr Mukanga claimed that since the construction of the ponds in 2013, CEEC had never gone back to Nchelenge to brief farmers on the way forward as the last meeting was held in December, 2013.
“They promised us that they would procure fingerlings on our behalf, but up to now they have not bought the fingerings despite having completed the constructions of ponds and cages in 2013,” Mr Mukanga said.
“Farmers have been to the CEEC provincial office in Nchelenge, headquarters in Lusaka and to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Commerce to appeal for intervention but nothing tangible has come up,” he said.