March 1, 2009

Vivienne, the woman we gave the fertilizer loan to last week, brought us two butternut squash from her farm. She told me how she went out there Saturday on her day off to top dress her last corn planting.

She drove to the highway junction, where a man met her at 4:30 p.m. with his bicycle. They loaded the fertilizer on it, and together they walked to the farm, the man pushing the bike. The side road to the farm is not passable by car in the rainy season. They arrived at 7 p.m., had supper and went to bed.

Secretary to the director of a large organisation during the week, Vivienne Muluwa spends weekends working on her small farm. She also has a large garden with bananas beside her house. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Secretary to the director of a large organisation during the week, Vivienne Muluwa spends weekends working on her small farm. She also has a large garden with bananas beside her house. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

The next morning they rose at 6 a.m., and applied the 50 kilogram bag of fertilizer. The urea is applied by hand, a pop bottle capful at each plant. A hole is made with a stick, the capful emptied into the hole, and then it is covered. In the afternoon she walked back to the junction to come home.

That’s a big effort for a small field. I think of our powerful four-wheel-drive tractors and fertilizer spreaders, or air drills, and it seems a world away. It is.

Many urbanites in Zambia have a small farm in the country, both for their own food and to subsidize their often meagre wages. They hire people to help them plant, weed and harvest, and spend weekends out there helping or supervising the work. These small farms contribute much to food security in Zambia.

Vivienne has planted corn, but is ahead of many in that she has also planted a soybean field. She is keeping some of the soybeans to mix with milled corn for nshima, the Zambian staple food. Nshima is usually made only of corn. The soybeans will greatly increase its nutritional value.

Women like Vivienne are such an encouragement to me. How often have I heard people say, “but nshima is our staple food,” when we tell them they need to rotate their corn with something like soybeans. Vivienne is proof that Zambians can adjust their diet to something that is better for them nutritionally and better for their fields.

She is excited to come with us to the upcoming conservation farming field day at Kapiri Mposhi. We are excited too. Together with Eva, we have filled a 29-passenger van and our car. It promises to be a great day of learning and interacting with other farmers.

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