Notes from Zambia
Aug. 11, 2010
We awoke this morning to a very different weather scenario. Whereas most of our winds had been gently blowing in from the east since our arrival, a strong south wind made its presence known and stayed with us all day into the evening. Not only did it cause the temperature to drop by several degrees, it was also responsible for blowing in a seasonal phenomenon: the itch caused by particles emitted by the buffalo bean plant. However, it was nothing that a good shower and change of clothes couldn't cure! It certainly helped us to be in solidarity with our Zambian counterparts, who experience this as part of their regular life experience. Besides that, today was another beautiful day in Africa and a huge team bonding experience where we all shared resources and thoughts.
One part of our day encompassed a visit to a farmers group that grew a variety of crops, but their main crop is rice. They have really united as a community to help with the problem of destructive wildlife. When the rice crop is still young and flooded, the farmers will spend nights out in the field and the mud to help keep the elephants and hippos away. The farmers clash pots, wave torches or blast pepper powder into the air, which irritates the animals. We were also amazed by the productivity that this group has. The group includes about 600 farmers and last year, they were able to produce an excess of 100 long tons (long ton = 2,200 lbs.) of rice. This was after they took out enough for their families of six. Remember, all of this is done on foot and by hand! We also had the opportunity to visit a government-run agricultural research station where work is being done in the development of upland rice, which would not require flooding as part of its cultivation practice.
After visiting several producers today, our Green Market group once again noticed differences between the communities with COMACO producer-members in their ranks as opposed to those that did not. The members’ gardens generally contained a wider variety of vegetables in greater abundance. This provided greater income, better nutrition and an overall better quality of life.
The Poultry and Bees group had an interesting experience; they were part of a training for a large group of prospective COMACO members. Because of the size of the crowd, the meeting was held in two classrooms at an area elementary school. Z-Team members found it to be at times a challenging gathering because of the size of the group and some initial skepticism by some of the attendees. However, these challenges were deftly worked through and the activity was deemed a success.
After reassembling at the guest house and enjoying a wonderful dinner, members shared their feelings and observations after experiencing such an interesting and sometimes challenging day. One of the members shared that he felt an even deeper solidarity with the Zambian people as we felt our discomforts today, knowing that they suffer such distress on a regular basis. With regard to the COMACO staff, we are noticing even more the great passion that they have for the COMACO model and that they are devoting their lives to its cause for the betterment of their society. We also had our own deeper discussion on COMACO and its positive effects on the issues of conservation and addressing the roots of hunger. Because the model provides for the empowerment of its members and staff who are all Zambian (save for Director Dale Lewis) it intrinsically exudes a high level of credibility within the region.
As the winds have finally subsided and the night settles in, we look forward to a new day of opportunity.