Limbani Liwonde, 28, sells tomatoes on Likoma Island. Every week, she travels to Jenda in Mzimba to order tomatoes which she vends at Mbamba, the island’s main market.
Her trips to the mainland involve costly risks as the ship docks almost 200 metres off shore. She always has to hire a boat to carry her goods from the ship.
“I pay up to K3 000 to hire a boat to carry my goods to the shore. This cuts my meagre profit,” she says the businessperson.
The absence of a jetty causes no mean economic and social hardship.
Andrew Chisala, 39, a construction contractor on the country’s largest island, struggles to transport building materials.
“It costs me about K6 000 to hire a boat to take the items to the shore,” he says.
Some goods sink in the lake when offloading.
“We incur losses when cement bags drop into the water,” he says.
The extra costs put them at a disadvantage when negotiating contracts.
“We have to include these costs, making our quotations high and unattractive,” he says.
Equally affected is Jonathan Milanzi, 35, a carpenter at Mbamba.
“With a jetty, my profit would be higher. The K6 000 spent on boats is a painful loss. I wish government heard our cry,” he says.
Public institutions are not exempted. Initiatives under Local Development Fund (LDF) and the Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme (Dahsp) are haunted by the nightmare.
Vincent Horowanya says the cost of building decent homes under Dahsp, also known as Cement and Malata Subsidy, is higher than on the mainland.
“In the first phase, we spent almost K690 000 on casual labour only. They were charging K500 to carry a bag from the ship to the shore,” he says.
A barge, which used to act as stop-gap, broke down over a decade ago.
Sigh of relief
Last month, President Peter Mutharika told Parliament that government will construct Likoma jetty starting this year.
The news has raised the hopes of the islanders.
Although the 2017/18 budget contains an allocation for the jetty, doubters say such promises have become a political song since the two islands were declared a district in 1999.
But Likoma Island legislator George Kamwanja refuses to dwell on the broken promises.
“We have heard such promises before, several times. We hope it will come true this time,” says Liwonde, who anticipates change in her business.
Kamwanja is optimistic that the jetty will finally start taking shape.
“There is a lot of political will right from the President to ministers of finance and transport,” he says.
When Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhango handed over the upgraded Likoma Airport to Airport Development Limited (ADL), he said constructing Likoma Jetty was a priority.
Improving transport facilities on the scenic island will likely promote trade and tourism.
Almost 14 400 islanders are waiting to see the jetty project take off.