Most people in Mpulungu live on the plateau and their major livelihood is agriculture. There is no large scale farming but there are some commercial fishing companies on Lake Tanganyika. The major challenges identified by communities are inadequate means and inappropriate methods for agriculture production and marketing. Among the causes of this is the shortage and high cost of fertiliser and more specifically the limited input subsidies provided through the fertiliser support programme.
Agricultural production is also affected by drought and lack of irrigation practice (despite the many streams), low farming skills, poor soil, and prevalence of insect pests, cattle disease (east coast fever and worms), as well as shortage of extension services.
Education and Youths
The literacy level in Mpulungu district is very low, with access to education as the major limiting factor. According to the District Education Board Secretary (DEBS) only 25,507 children (13,453 boys and 12,054 girls) were in regular schools in 2010. The only high school has just been opened and is in use. However, there is still a lot of workmanship that need to be done for the school to be fully complete. Basic schools are few (29 middle basic and 10 upper basic) and thinly scattered all over the district.
The teaching-learning environment in these community schools is very bad due to poor infrastructure, scarce materials such as books and many untrained teachers. The pupil survival rate up to grade nine is just 15 per cent against the national target of 50 per cent. Out of the 77 per cent of girls who drop out of school, 40 per cent drop out due to pregnancy and 37 per cent drop out as a result of child marriages.
Women and Girls
Child marriages and violence against girls and women are common among the Lungu people, with the cultural practice of a girl being abducted by a man and locked away for two to three weeks in his house while he sleeps with her. After that a man appears to the parents of the girl to declare that he is the one keeping her and wants to marry her. At that particular point she may even be pregnant.
Child marriage removes children from school denying them the right to participate in many community activities as they become adults because they are illiterate. The girls also suffer during pregnancy since their bodies are immature and a number of deaths occur. Many girls who are married early also end up being divorced as they are not able to handle the heavy adult roles. Therefore these girls’ future is destroyed and they enter the cycle of poverty and other related gender based violence including exposure to HIV and AIDS. The practice of early marriage is deep-rooted in tradition such that it is supported by parents and traditional leaders.
The traditional practice of the Lungu people of Mpulungu does not encourage women and youths to pursue positions of decision making. As a result, women and youths are considered to be disrespectful if they stand in public to express their opinions and have for a long become passive participants in decision making and general governance. The norm has been that women usually feel inferior to challenge men in decision making positions.