Council embarks on farming projects to sustain operations

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Cash-strapped Karoi Town Council has embarked on farming projects to supplement revenue streams amid reports of mounting debts, salary arrears and poor service delivery.

The local authority is owed in excess of $1 million in unpaid service bills by residents.

Karoi tabled a $6 million budget for 2012 which is still awaiting approval by the Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo.

“We have perennially struggled to stay afloat and provide residents with efficient services and pay our workerson time. We have been in talks with relevant authorities to take over water billing, but until then our hope is that our farming activities will cushion us,” said town secretary Maxwell Kaitano.

He said proceeds from the farming ventures would be channelled towards service provision and improvement of workers’ welfare. This year council put between 20 and 44 hectares under maize and soyabeans.

According to council farm manager Charles Bvukumbwe, the farming venture at the 300-hectare New Forest Farm was progressing well and a bumper harvest was expected.

Negotiations with local seed houses were at an advanced stage to rope them in on a project to grow seed maize, he said.

The local authority will in May re-launch its chicken-rearing project with an initial batch of 10 000 birds and expects to produce six batches annually.

The project was stalled last November to allow for renovations of the fowl runs. Bvukumbwe said council also planned to venture into tobacco farming.