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Agriculture complements mining in Lunda Sul’s economy

Article - May 25, 2015

The economically diversified province is further boosting key sectors to bring about more employment and increased economic prosperity 

Following a steady and sustainable period of growth and transformation, Angola is now squarely on its feet. GDP is climbing, increased domestic production is making the country less reliant on imports, budding new business are helping to diversify the local economy, and this is all evident in the eastern province of Lunda Sul. 

Bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lunda Sul is roughly the size of South Carolina and has a population of half a million, made up of a rich network of ethnicities, including Cokwe, Lunda, Minungo, Xinge, and Bangala. The province’s main economic motors are agro-livestock, fishing and mining, with an emphasis on the mining of diamonds, as well as the extraction of manganese and iron. 

As part of the Angolan government’s set of national development policies, all three of these sectors are receiving attention, and measures are being enacted to ensure their healthy growth in the future. In an attempt to bolster economic activity in the agro-livestock sector, for instance, the provincial government has been making efforts to push for the restocking of quality cattle.

An agricultural experimental station has also been put in place to test the soil from different parts of the region and to identify its most productive crops. At present, however, subsistence agriculture is most common in the province, with cassava, maize, rice, ground nuts, sweet potatoes, yams, and fruit – pineapple, in particular – being among its main crops.

Since the consumption of fish is an integral part of the local population’s diet, steps are also being taken to modernize the fishing sector, in a bid to more efficiently satisfy market demand.

In parallel, the central government has invested Kz15.2 million ($141,500) in three structural projects slated for construction in the province of Lunda Sul. Two of the projects concern the construction and reconstruction of airport infrastructure in the province’s capital of Saurimo. The third project is the rehabilitation of the provincial hospital. At present, all of these projects are still underway, and American companies interested in investing funds, expertise, or equipment into any of the three projects are encouraged to contact the office for Commercial Representation of Angola in the United States of America, located in Washington, D.C.

Combating hunger and creating jobs through agriculture

The Angolan Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Afonso Pedro Canga, is on board with several plans for reinvigorating the agricultural output of Lunda Sul. Of the upmost priority, however, is engaging as many families as possible in the production of crops that will not only ensure their nutritional security, but also provide them with steady jobs.

Following the 2012/2013 agricultural campaign that engaged 49,000 families in Luanda Sul, Mr. Canga announced that the 2014/2105 campaign aims to prepare more than 8,600 acres of land for the cultivation of cereals, vegetables and horticultural products. An additional 50,000 families will be engaged, and 20 tons of corn, 30 tons of beans, and 10 tons of rice will be distributed to rural communities across all municipalities of the province. 

Mr. Canga is also quick to point out that agricultural production grew by 12% between 2013 and 2014, and that the production of cereals has reached an all-time high of 1.82 million tons. Egg production was also on the rise, with an estimated 23.5 million eggs produced in 2014, as opposed to 17 million during the previous year. The minister believes that this growth is due to strong investments being made in the sector, which he pledges to continue to support in various ways.

Plans to construct silos in different localities of the country have already been announced, as has a move to facilitate cotton production. In addition to providing new business opportunities for farmers, the homegrown production of cotton will also provide a corollary boost for the textile industry.

At a recent press conference in the capital of Saurimo, Mr. Canga reaffirmed that engaging entire families in agricultural projects is the most effective way to combat hunger and poverty, as well as to stimulate the development process in the rural areas of Luanda Sul.

The luster of Angola’s diamond industry

Last year, 8.75 million carats of Angolan diamonds went to export, and were valued at $1.308 billion. The crown jewel of this thriving industry is none other than Catoca, an Angolan diamond prospecting, exploration, recovery and sales company, owned jointly by the Angolan diamond company Endiama, as well as Alrosa (Russia) LLV (China), and Odebrecht (Brazil).

Responsible for mining more than 75% of the country’s diamonds, among many of its projects, the company explores the Catoca kimberlite mine in Lunda Sul, which is the fourth largest open pit kimberlite mine in the world. In addition to the Catoca mine, the government of Angola has recently approved rights for artisanal diamond mining, which includes an area of 118 square miles between the provinces of Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul. In accordance with the Mining Code and Private Investment Law, these two artisanal diamond concessions will allow the use of semi-industrial equipment.

Big changes on the mining horizon

Two significant changes have recently taken place, which have the potential to make a significant impact on the Angolan mining industry. First, after a 20-year term, the Director-General of Sociedade Mineira de Catoca, Dr. José Ganga Junior, has been replaced by Sergei Mitiukhin, a Russian citizen. According to the Angolan news agency Angop, Mr. Mitiukhin is expected to serve a term of four years and will have two Angolan deputy directors. He holds a degree in Earth Sciences, and was previously the Director of Operations for Africa for the Russian diamond company Alrosa, which is a Catoca shareholder.

Secondly, an exciting new National Geology Plan, also known as “Planageo” has been instituted in an attempt to increase awareness of the geological and mining potential of Angola. At a recent press conference, the Provincial Director for Geology and Mining in Lunda Sul, Gildo Carlos Massua, explained that the project aims to help identify areas with possible mining occurrences in four Angolan provinces, including Lunda Sul.

He reported that the project was advancing nicely, with aerial surveys being conducted from overflying aircraft that are helping hone in on the areas with the strongest mining potential. Though still in its early phases, Mr. Massua explained that the information collected as part of Planageo could be used to entice and inform potential investors in the region, as well as to conduct rational and sustainable exploration of minerals. Planageo also includes various sub-programs, among which are plans to restructure and modernize the Angolan Geological Institute (IGEO) through training and the diversification of mining production.

A much needed push for economic diversification

In addition to agriculture and diamonds, the province of Lunda Sul is blessed with abundant hydropower, arable land and marine resources that must also be tapped into so as to more thoroughly foster the development and prosperity of the region.  Following the fall of oil prices on the international market, especially, the Governor of Lunda Sul, Cândida Narciso, recently expressed the need “to be committed to working on the diversification of the economy, especially in the agricultural and mining sectors.”

According to Ms. Narciso, putting an emphasis on sectors that will improve the living conditions of the population are the local government’s top priorities for 2015. This includes focusing on development in the realms of education, health and sports through the construction of more social infrastructure, as well as adequately training new staff to operate these new community assets.

While works are well underway, for example, to build provincial and municipal maternal and infant hospitals near Saurimo, other non-tangible issues are also beign addressed. In mid-March, the Lunda Sul Department of Social Welfare held the first ever forum on the protection of the elderly.

Plans are also being made to improve roads and expand access to primary education, information technology and communications.

As part of the national $5 billion “Water for All” project, in March this year Ms. Narciso unveiled a new water collection and distribution system in the town of Carteira. “The water supply, distribution and treatment system,” she highlighted at the event, “will reduce diseases caused by untreated water consumption, as well as shorten the distance that people have to walk to the precious liquid.”

Earlier this year in Saurimo, Minister of Energy and Water João Baptista Borges had inaugurated a regional laboratory to test water quality to ensure that the water infrastructure being developed under the “Water for All” program is up to standard.

As a reminder of how far Angola has come, yet how far it still has to go, Ms. Narciso and a small group of local government officials recently assembled to commemorate the anniversary of the 1961 uprising which marked the beginning of Angola’s armed struggle for liberation.

In an act of remembrance, they gathered to lay the first stones of a historical monument being constructed in honor of those who fought and lost their lives in Angola’s 14-year war for independence. Once complete, the monument will be a stoic symbol of the challenges that have characterized Angola’s difficult past, as well as proof that with vision, unity and perseverance, even the most daunting of setbacks can be overcome.