Wednesday, May 12

Update from Zambia

 I don't normally write down any email descriptions of my trips overseas, just the final report at the end, but I found myself thinking about how to descirbe things in the same way that I did in Haiti so here goes.  Andrew this is to prove I do work, even if we never talk, and to those of you who refer to my trips as holidays this is to tell you a bit of what I do.  It isn't written as a blog but a 'welcome to my world'  please don't feel you have to plough through all of it

Flight from Heathrow was fine, 2 hour transfer in Nairobi, just enough time for a mango juice.  Arrived in Lusaka and then had a 3 hour wait before we set off for the road journey to Serenje.  Finally arrived at about 8pm

I've been to the guest house before and the best way to describe it is a bit like a run down 50's single storey guest house.  In my room the curtains are sort of up and not to be moved.  Best not to look too closely at the mattress.  Tiles off the wall in the bathroom.  The sink had a hot tap and the bath a cold tap, but neither had a plug! The other interesting feature was the light switch in the bathroom was broken so stayed on all the time.  I foolishly shut the bathroom door to keep out the light the first night, but because there were just holes and no handles a knife had to be used to open it again in the morning!

Early morning meeting to agree the programme, objectives, messaging etc.  Then meeting with pastors fellowship who are 'owners of the vision'.  Welcome and mini sermon then up to me to bring greetings from Kerith (who fund the project) and lay out my objectives and hopes for the week.  Talked about recent visit from Uganda of partners, the model of church and community mobilisation and the way this has been replication in many countries leading to empowerment and sustainability.  Used the illustration of Joseph going to Egypt to illustrate the way the bible talks about food security.  Their role as pastors to encourage their congregations to use their resources and inputs wisely.  Spoke about empowerment, my desire for them to be in control and not to have to rely on outside help in the future.  Seemed OK as they want to learn more about mobilisation process.

Went to Mosankano community.  Welcome with community and their leaders.  Unusual because chair person is a woman.  Had a report on agricultural inputs of beans and groundnuts (peanuts).  There were exceptionally heavy rains so most of the beans rotted on the plants so poor harvest.  Very good groundnut harvest.  Sweet potatoes currently in the gound but soon ready for harvest.  Certain it wil be another very good crop.  Crops have meant that they have not been hungry like in other years, their childrn have been able to have sweet potato and groundnuts for breakfast before going to school.  They also reported that the educational support has allowed a few children to go onto university and as a community they are very proud of this.  This time I talked about the parable fo the talents, that God ahs given us resources and it is up to us to use them wisely and not just remain in the same place.

We visited a number of fields under cultivation.  Some were better tended than others and I suggested to the field officer for the project that he collect data on yields and adherence to the advice by the agricultural officers.  This may provide motivation for correct planting next season.  It was clear that some were far better tended and had the correct planting formation, whereas others showed a disappointing crop but in a mixed field with bad spacing.  Visiting the fields was a classic case of it is just round the corner and after 25 minutes walk we got there.

Chikitu was next community.  Journey took us down a half metre wide track, so fairly typical African journey where the 4 wheel drive vehicle ploughs through the vegetation.  Another welcome, more songs, spoke this time about work kerith doing in the community.  Then story of woman in uganda who sold her cow, planted cassava with the profits, sold that and used the profit to pay for hiring cows to plough more cassava etc.  She now owns her own tractor, ploughs in 5 days hires it out the rest of the time.

More fields of maize, cassava, groundnuts, sweets potato.  Same stories about bean crops.  All now planting more land and able to save seeds for next year, so generally good news.  Many of the houses are looking after double and single orphans.  Large field of groundnuts should bring in 500,000 kwacha and you need 30,000 for school uniform and about 20,000 for school fees.

Travelled to Kashitu which is about 5 mins on tarmac and then 60 on dirt tracks.  Community members weren't assembled so went off to the fields.  Abandoned vehicle and walked ab out 20/25 mins to what looked like an idyllic house up in the hills.  The mud brick house had flowers in the front, a stream running down the hill near to the house, chickens running ground and all neat and tidy.  Of course the reality is that it take over an hour to walk to school across the fields and about 4 hours to the nearest town.  Maybe not so idyllic. heavily pregnant lady explained how the ground nut seeds, sweet potatoes etc had enabled her to expand her fields.  Also she had invested some of the profits into a local co-operative match funding scheme and bought maize seed and fertilizer.  The family now have all the chidren in school and also have 3 meals a day rather than the one before the project started.  Real sense that the family were looking to the future and planning and investing.

Visited another couple of fields.  One was an elderly man looking after a number of orphans.  he had planted his ground nut seeds, sold some, paid for schooling, bought more seeds, extended the fields he was working.  All been done by hand and was quite extensive.  I suggested putting money aside to hire a plough and he is going to do that this year.

Another lady told a similar story with cassava plants and using cuttings to extend her agriculture.  At the community meeting a number of people described how the seeds had enabled them to pay for school fees for their children, the orphans they cared for etc.  There were also people who complained that their childrn did not have educational support whilst others did.  The challenge is to get people to look at inputs given as investments and not to continue in dependency mode. Priority of new field officer but community already showing excellent examples of this.  33 people said their lives had significantly changed since start of the project.

Community also sold a lorry load of sweet potatoes in 50kg sacks to buyer from Lusaka who had come and collected them.  Suggested possiblity of community putting money aside and hiring a van to sell produce in Lusaka themselves.  Likely to achieve a price 4 or 5 times when they are currently receiving - worth investigating.

Met a girl just arrived in area from US for 2 years with peace corp. Seemed a bit odd as no obvious support (monthly meeting) and she is an agriculture, forestry and bee keeping advisor, but her degree is in English and her training was just a few weeks after arriving in Zambia.

Long project meeting at end of day talking about financials.

Fields first so met a grandmother widow for 27 years and now has care of 3 children from one of her sons.  they are from  first marriage which ended in divorce.  He has remarried and so the children have come to live with her.  Same stories of agricultural expansion, match funding etc.  Also next door was her daughter who had 8 children by her first husband who died (wanted boys) and 2 from her second.

Looked at more fields (quite boring by now) of cassava, ground nuts and cassava.  One field not particularly well tended but the lady explained she was doing it by herself.  Must be hard working land by yourself by hand.

At the community meeting a number commented on the poor bean harvest, though the chief pointed out that it wasn't the fault of the seed distributed since their own seeds had failed.  He encouraged the community members to take the opportunities that were given, not rely on them  for the future but to make sull advantage of them.  More children were in school and the communities are conributing to improving the construction of classrooms for years 8 and 9 at the local basic school.  I spoke about running the race (Timothy), keeping the end goal in focus, not getting put off by downfalls and taking advantage of cars that came along to help you, but making sure it was your vision and goal and not that of someone else.  Used an example from Tanzania where a community now has all tin roofs and children in school through their own efforts.

Lastly project committee meeting to feedback.  Encouraged them to look for the bright spots and use them as examples in communities.  Talked about dpendency and the role of pastors to encourage congregations to look to planning for the future and investing what individuals are given.

Back to Lusaka.  Slightly more upmarket guest house with internet but no wifi key so having to use the computer in reception.

If you have made it this far, well done.  One bit of news on the emails is that I've been asked if I would go back to Haiti.  Obviously can't at the moment as in the wrong place.  I'm in negotiations!



  1. Hi there Lindsey - just read through your report. God bless you for what you do. I just found your report so much like a business report - there was no heart in it - no feeling. I understand that when you do this sort of work you could be torn apart by becoming too emotionally involved. Really don't mean this to sound like criticism - perhaps rather constructive observation?

  2. I think it was quite a balanced report. From another perspective I am very interested in seeing Serenje self sufficient when the project ends and it is quite difficult to see if this will be achieved from the report. For instance is there enough seed produced this year for people to be self sufficient next year and for seed to be given to new people. But I recognise that this is a blog and is observations at the time. Thanks Lindsey