THE five Zambian farmers who were arrested and detained for farming in the Kasungu National Park in Malawi have been released from prison after intervention from the Zambian government.

The 5 farmers of Chikwa village in Chief Zumwanda’s area of Lumezi district were arrested by the Malawi Wildlife Conservation for entering a protected area without permission, conveying a weapon in a protected area and preparation of land for cultivation.

They were then sentenced to 28 months imprisonment with hard labour.

One of the released convicts, Felleny Kanyinji, who was in detention with her one-year-old baby, thanked the Zambian Government for negotiating for their release in the Malawian prison.

Kanyinji said it was so difficult for her to stay in prison with a baby who was crying all day due to the bad conditions in the prison cells.

“I thank the Zambian government for coming to our aid so that we are released from prison in Malawi. We did not know that we were farming in the Malawian land because we are bordering the area with Malawi,” said Kanyinji.

And another released convict, Tisa Nkhoma, said they have been farming on the same land for more about 20 years now.

“They took us to court in Malawi and we were sentenced to 2-years four months imprisonment for entering in a protected area and do our farming activities there,” said Nkhoma.

Eastern Province Minister Peter Phiri, who received the farmers, said he was happy that negotiations were successful.

“I want to thank His Excellency the President of Zambia Mr Hakainde Hichilema for what he did to negotiate with his counterpart President Lazarus Chakwera to have our brothers and sisters released from prison,” said Phiri.

He said going forward, the provincial administration would carry out sensitisation programmes for people living in border areas to avoid getting into conflict with the law from the other side.

Phiri said government would see how best people could be assisted as all the crops they had planted on the Malawian side were completely destroyed.

He said Government, through the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit, would do an assessment to see the vulnerability and needs of the farmers as the time to replant is already over.

The five farmers have since been taken to Lumezi district to rejoin their family members.