The construction of the US$700,000 soil laboratory at Msekera Agriculture Research Institute in Chipata has been completed.
The soil laboratory is part of the World Bank-financed US$32.8 million Zambia Integrated Forest and Landscape Project (ZIFLP) that has been running for the last five years and comes to an end this year.
Eastern Province Permanent Secretary Paul Thole has inspected the laboratory, which is due for opening, and commended the two local contractors, InvestCorp Zambia Limited and Fungala Investments Limited for the good job done.
Mr. Thole, who was accompanied by Deputy Permanent Secretary Beauty Phiri, the provincial administration is keen on seeing local contractors taking up more works on bigger projects unlike always giving such contracts to foreign companies.
“This soil laboratory has been constructed with support for the Zambia Integrated Forest Landscape Project (ZIFLP) at a total cost of US$700,000 under the Climate Smart Agriculture Component. I am happy with the works done by our local contractors. Everything is done except for the power connection,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary has since directed ZESCO in Chipata to speed up the process of connecting the soil laboratory to the national power grid because all the requirements were already done.
He mentioned that ZIFLP is helping the province to reduce deforestation, unsustainable agricultural expansion and reduce vulnerability to climate change, adding that the completed soil laboratory will contribute to the improved agricultural productivity through improved soil fertility management.
“The laboratory will help in undertaking soil research in the province, which is critical for stabilising soils and increased fertility, improved water retention, harvesting and filtration, increasing carbon biomass accumulation above and below the ground,” Mr. Thole said.
He also noted that the soil laboratory will immensely help ZARI staff to find local and long-lasting solutions to the adverse effect of climate change and many other challenges the people in Eastern Province are facing through critical soil laboratory analytical work.
He said the Eastern provincial administration was looking forward to seeing ZARI conduct quality research that will result from the laboratory.
“Their research and dedication to solving problems will undoubtedly lead to new innovations that will increase agricultural production and productivity in Eastern Province,” he said
ZIFLP Project Manager Noel Muchimba said the soil laboratory building comprises modern facilities that include: soil chemistry laboratory, soil microbiology laboratory, soil physics laboratory, GIS laboratory, library, a board room and offices among others.
Mr. Muchimba said all the laboratories will be equipped with modern instruments and operated by skilled and experienced staff.
“ZIFLP is currently in the process of procuring the state of the art equipment that will be installed in the new facility and will soon commence the training of the staff on the use of the equipment.
“It is our expectation that after the handover of the laboratory by the contractor, it will be immediately operational with new equipment and skilled staff,” he said.
Mr. Muchimba said efforts to modernise the laboratories would not be possible without the active support of World Bank and indeed all stakeholders that have been involved in this project.
And Provincial Infrastructure Officer Wilson Chifwima said he is happy with the workmanship on the soil laboratory, adding that all works were done according to specification.