Feb. 6, 2009

I hope to be on internet tonight. The system is down at the moment. I use an air card for my laptop. Zambia introduced the air card several years ago, before anyone in Canada was talking about it. In many ways Zambia is technically quite up to date. The speed of the internet leaves much to be desired though. It makes dial up seem like high speed. But at least we can get on – usually.

Which woman has the reddest tomatoes? Everyone would like us to buy from them!

Which woman has the reddest tomatoes? Everyone would like us to buy from them!

Harold just got in the shower and the water is off again, half an hour early. They turn the water off several times a day at this station to save water. There are supposed to be set times, but I think the guy in charge doesn’t wear a Swiss watch.

Tomorrow afternoon we have our first business meeting with Bukuumo Co-operative. We look forward to it with concern. This is the group that we had the highest hopes for, and has brought the least fruit. Their dream of building a large chicken layer barn and producing eggs has not materialized, in part because of exploding feed prices, which made the project unprofitable; in part because the dream was unrealistic.

When we left them last year, they had some money, two light transport trucks (one in need of repair) and two pieces of land. “Now show us what you can do with that,” was our mandate to them.

Lusaka International Community School - where Thomas Gass is headmaster. Children from every nationality go to school here together. This is a prestigious private school.

Lusaka International Community School - where Thomas Gass is headmaster. Children from every nationality go to school here together. This is a prestigious private school.

Both trucks are grounded and the one was never repaired and used. The other broke down on the poor roads during the rainy season. They needed a loan to get fuel to run the government fertilizer distribution program. They didn’t get as big a contract for the fertilizer program as hoped, and couldn’t fulfill their whole obligation because some of the fertilizer never reached the distribution centre.

Nothing has been done on the land, even though one piece is in prime agricultural area. They concentrated too much on trying to get another business interested in the chicken layer project and let the land go.

So business has not been profitable. We will go to the meeting with an open mind and listen, and hopefully ask intelligent questions. How can we help them in a meaningful way?

This morning we spent several hours with Eva and Murray Sanderson. Murray is in his 70s, and came to Africa in 1956. Eva, his wife, must be in her 60s, and is a black Zambian.

Eva has been active politically and works with women’s groups. She explained how important it is to help the Africans think through themselves what it is they really want, what they have available to get it, and how they can go about reaching their goals.

You can get most of your vegetables at roadside markets, with makeshift shacks.

You can get most of your vegetables at roadside markets, with makeshift shacks.

Again, we are reminded that our job is to facilitate, to stand beside, to encourage. It is not to tell them what to do, to bring them finished ideas. Tonight I said to Tito, Bukuumo’s treasurer, “It is your c-op, not ours. You’re not here for us. We’re here for you — but not to do it for you. You have to bring the ideas, not us.”

He had suggested that they were waiting for us to come with ideas of how they could proceed.

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One Response to Feb. 6, 2009

  1. Maya Wenger says:

    I think I can relate to Tito – sometimes when we come in to a new thing, it is hard to conceive of how to proceed into the unknown. Does he have access to local human resources to help him get ideas to move forward? Is there any communication between the three groups you are working with, to help each other?

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