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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Notes from Zambia

Aug. 9, 2010

We suppose that the best word to describe today’s events is “WOW!” Among many things, we gained deeper insight into the culture of the region. Each team ventured into areas farther away from our previous visits, this time mostly visiting with producers who are not COMACO members but have had some exposure to the concept. Two of our groups even ventured into a new chiefdom, which means that the chief of the region had to first be notified and consulted some time ago to gain permission into his territory. Once this is done, COMACO’s efforts may continue. We were happy (but not surprised to hear) that the chiefs of both the existing chiefdom as well as the new one are very supportive. We also were exposed to deeper issues of poverty and its associated challenges as evidenced by interviewing producers and visual observation of the area and people.

The Farmers Group ventured into the Jumbe region and, with the help of a Zambian Agriculture Department agent, interviewed 13 farmers on several topics including their current situation in terms of production practices, crop and livestock diseases, marketing, issues with wildlife trampling their fields, education of their children and its associated costs, and financial situation. These in-depth interviews provided much deeper insight into their lives and provided more opportunity to expose them to preliminary information about COMACO and how their involvement could possibly be of benefit to them. They also had the opportunity to visit the fields of two of the producers and witnessed the destructive aftermath of an invasion of elephants into a maize field. After this visit, they visited nearby Mambwe High School with has an agricultural component in its curriculum and visited with several teachers and one administrator.

The Poultry and Bees team traveled to the same region and visited with several producers who were also involved in charcoal production. Through this, the team members were able to witness the stark reality of deforestation and producers receiving bare-bones prices for their charcoal.

The Green Market Team had the experience of walking several miles deeper into the bush to visit and confer with several vegetable producers. It was there that they were also witness to people who were dealing with even deeper challenges of poverty and disease. They were deeply moved by their experiences.

As the entire team reflected on the day’s activities back at the guest house, they entered into even deeper discussion about the economic, agricultural and societal situation in Zambia and the role that COMACO can continue to play. They also pondered the future of COMACO and how it could continue to evolve. All look forward to the submission of their case studies and final report to Dale Lewis and his staff next week.

We also bid farewell to Daniel Sheehan, Crop Research Specialist with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, who was with us for the past week. He was indeed a great addition to our team, providing deep professional insight to all of our activities, all the while learning about COMACO and FFA. We wish him and his family well as they travel to South Africa for the next several months to work with the foundation’s research farm.

On to Tuesday!

The Z-Team


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