A Chipata-based enterprising farmer who has diversified into tourism is pleading with the government for strategic government assistance to local investors if the sector is to grow and benefit the local market.
Mr Patrick Chirwa, the developer of Kauzu Game Ranch, which sits on 30 acres of land, told ZANIS that he has invested K1 million in order to create a theme park with events, camping, viewing exotic birds and game animals, and educational tours.
“Why I came up with this idea is that a lot of people would want to go and watch animals. The nearest tourism centre from Chipata is Mfuwe. Mfuwe is very far, so I thought it wisely that I can make a difference and bring some tourism next to my city of Chipata,” he said.
According to Mr Chirwa, six schools have already booked in advance for education tours ahead of the game ranch opening this week.
However, Mr Chirwa notes that for the tourism sector to grow and serve both the local and international market, it needs full government support.
Drawing comparisons from Madagascar and Kenya economies that have made tourism their big foreign exchange earner, he is optimistic Zambia cannot go wrong if it capitalized the tourism sector.
“Talk about Madagascar, talk about Kenya. The economy of Kenya is driven by tourism. We have got a lot of national parks that could bring in forex, but it is only, maybe, these sectors have been ignored. So I would encourage the new government to put some consideration into tourism and you will never go wrong,” Mr Chirwa said.
Mr Chirwa who is alos former Mayor for the Chipata Council under UNIP government, said tourism has the potential to beat agriculture and mining in terms of earning foreign exchange.
He also advised that government must also look into promoting art which forms a key component of tourism.
“Government should at least identify and concentrate not only in agriculture, not only in these other sectors, but art as well because art is part of tourism. The sculptures that the artists make, the curios and the likes, they fetch a lot of money when tourists come and buy,” Mr Chirwa said.
He explained that part of his plan is to host art exhibitions and traditional dances in order to promote the cultural heritage of Eastern Province.
However, he bemoaned the bureaucracy riddled process of buying animals for game ranching from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, which has made his project expensive.
Mr Chirwa said he opted to start buying animals for his ranch from private ranches, who are extremely expensive because he did not want to join a waiting list which has people waiting for seven years to buy animals from the national parks department.
“I am so pleased with the National Parks for their support. Only challenge we have, which I think it has to be brought to the attention of government is: we are buying these animals from private ranchers, which are extremely expensive, yet we have the national parks with a lot of animals but I cannot access them,” he said.