Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Today is the second day of the Chipata District Leadership Training workshop. My co-worker asked me to attend. The training is part of an European Union funded initiative to support the decentralization process in Zambia as well as to facilitate the enforcement of good governance through raising public awareness and improving government practices. The topics covered (i.e. character, leadership quality, use of power and authority) are the normal topics covered in leadership trainings., but it was interesting to see the way Zambia begin an official meeting. There is the announcement of the agenda and introductions, as elsewhere, and the official declaration of the meeting. The language medium is a combination of English and Nyanja, the official language of Chipata District and the Eastern Province, as it is most widely spoken here. And then, the morning prayer. Somewhere towards the end, the participants chant of encouragement, perhaps, or to promote wisdom. I forgot to ask the reason for it.

I have been eager to talk a little bit about my work here. There is a lot of planning to do in Chipata District, but very little money. The red tape of any government system is also present here, which makes project mobility a little difficult to expedite. I am doing some self-improvement work in this department, as patience is a virtue, and am letting time run its course. More often than not, I fail. I grumble to myself when my to tasks are delayed because of government red tape.

Overall, the objective of my placement is to support decentralization and the implementation of the integrated development plan, a revised version of the former land use guide that has driven planning throughout Zambia. The land use guide notes are really outdated, dating back to the 1970s, and does not reflect the complexity of urban spaces. As a planning guide, moreover, the guide notes focus too strongly on building codes and land parceling, rather than treating these elements of planning as part of a broader system associated with the planning of towns, cities, and regions. As such, the guide notes miss the interconnections of physical planning to other elements that influence the conditions of space, such as the environment, transportation, internet connection, economic development, and place values, concepts that are generally included when analyzing urban places.

One month later. I have proposed revising the guide notes and have also started tackling one of the more pressing problems in Chipata District, which is squatter communities. There are two large ones in Chipata township, Kapata and Magazine. Magazine has not been mapped, yet, and is a project I am trying to accomplish. It has been almost three weeks, now, and I have not finished the rough sketch of the Compound. It is bigger than I imagined and we at the Council are short-staffed. Fortunately, the federal government has designated it as a housing upgrade project, but I am trying to convince local government to approach upgrading more comprehensively. The Compound has a market, which is a good target for re-designing. Needless to say, with funding constraints, grants have to be written. I hope to get funds from different aid sources that have different development targets. I plan to complete pieces of the upgrade project in the year that I am here.

I look forward to providing more details about the other projects in another blog. I hope that this bit of information gives you a better idea of the value of volunteering to the development of Zambia. Remember that I am still fundraising for this placement. I only need to raise about USD$1600 to meet my minimum fundraising goal of USD$2000. You can contribute on line. Just click on the link, “My Fundraising Page” to the left of today's blog. A million thanks in advance to those inspired to sponsor my placement.


Monique said...

Nice article, Camille. It was interesting to learn a little something about the complexities and interconnections involved in urban planning. I look forward to reading more!

Chisanga said...

Very informative article, Camille. I agree with your point of government red tape and bureaucracy, sometimes it just seems like even the few resources that we do have can not be applied effectively. All the best,


Camille Tuason Mata said...

Thanks for the comments. Although red tape slows everything down, I still find it rewarding, if not aggravating, to learn to work within this constraint. Red tape exists everywhere, and the effects of it in Zambia are obvious. They locals want to improve, or so they say, but it's difficult to break habits. I find that people make excuses for the inefficiency rather than try to develop good work habits. I'm not talking necessarily about coming in 30 minutes after the start time of work. I'm referring to the complete ignoring of memos, requests, and reports that are so vital to pushing work forward.