It seems incredible that bustling, economically thriving North-Western province does not have its own abattoir for processing meat; but that glaring anomaly has presented the locals with an amazing business opportunity.

With the help of Barrick Lumwana mine and some K600 000 of funding from the mine-sponsored Lumwana Community Trust, the people of the local Mumena chiefdom have decided to build an abattoir to enable local farmers to sell their chickens, goats and other meats to a wider market.

It is nearing completion, and once it starts operation in the course of 2018, it is expected to generate millions of kwacha in revenue, create employment, and radically transform the livelihoods of the thousands of farmers who raise chickens, goats and other animals.

The abattoir will accept meat from local farmers; and then clean, dress and package it for storage in freezers. The meat will then be delivered to customers such as mines, shops and supermarkets.

“Our long-term objective is to grow this abattoir until it reaches a level where we can export to neighbouring countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola,” says Mercy Samanana, project coordinator. “We know we’ll eventually get there.”

The optimism displayed by Samanana and others involved in the project appears to be well founded, as the business case for the abattoir is pretty solid.

There are three mines in the province – Barrick Lumwana in the Lumwana area, and First Quantum Minerals’ Kansanshi Mine in Solwezi and Sentinel Mine in Kalumbila; and they are huge consumers of meat for their thousands of employees.

According to Bonnard Fumpa, a committee member of the Royal Mumena Establishment, a single mine kitchen easily devours some 40 000 birds a month. He says that locals trying to sell their chickens to the mines were running up against the strict procurement standards of industrial caterers, who require chickens to be properly cleaned, processed and packaged. The Royal Mumena Establishment had many meetings with farmers to discuss this problem. The idea of an abattoir slowly began to gain ground, and ended up being enthusiastically accepted by the community.

The three mines in N.W. province are a major market for the abattoir

Besides the obvious market of the three mines, the abattoir is also targeting the numerous shops and supermarkets in Solwezi, where chickens sell at around K50 each. At present, all the province’s poultry comes from abattoirs in other parts of Zambia, particularly Lusaka and the Copperbelt.

“That represents a big loss of revenue for our local people here,” says Samanana.  “Once the abattoir starts operating, a lot of that money will flow into our community, and will help to alleviate poverty.”

Despite the huge market potential, the abattoir is starting out small and targeting an initial production of just 32 000 dressed birds a week. The plan is to start with chickens before moving into goats and other forms of livestock, because chickens are popular in the region and many people raise them.

There are various upfront costs too – for example, refrigerated trucks will be needed to transport frozen meat to customers, and the bumpy dirt track leading to the main road will have to be tarred.

But perhaps the biggest challenge is the specialised nature of running an abattoir, which means partnering with people who understand the business. These partners would run the abattoir on behalf of the Royal Mumena Establishment, and provide the management and other expertise. In the past couple of months, potential suitors have been brought in to view the abattoir and assess its business potential. If all goes well, a tie-up will be finalised early in 2018, and planning will be able to start in earnest around the start of operations.

Johnson Ntambo, another committee member of the Royal Mumena Establishment, is particularly excited about the long-term potential of the abattoir, because he knows mines are a wasting asset and will not be around forever.  “One day, mining will come to an end here. And what will be remembered? At least the abattoir will still exist. Those not yet born will find this abattoir.”

See also: Cash cows