April 6

Excerpt of an e-mail from a Zambian friend: “Just help to remember me in your prayers as I continue kneeling to ask for a farm of my own.” This woman rents 25 acres to plant corn and vegetables for sale.

We find it interesting how many well-educated Zambians with good jobs want to farm. There seems to be a perception that farming makes good money. Maybe farming is equated with security – you have a piece of land that is yours; you can build a house and grow your own food. Many people return to their villages when they retire. Life there is much cheaper than in the cities, you have family to help you, and hopefully food.

Kunda, an elderly gentleman, hoes his garden. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Kunda, an elderly gentleman, hoes his garden. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

When people hear we are farmers working with farmers, they are almost always interested. Few are without ties to the villages they once came from. Many have land or would like to own land.

Especially in this time of economic crisis, being able to provide your own food has become valuable. It reminds me of Uncle Bill from Alberta. He once told me that during the Second World War, if you had land, you could build yourself a shack and grow your own food. You had it made.

The steep drop in commodity prices has really hurt Zambia, whose main export product is copper.  A Greek restaurant owner told us most businesses are down 30 percent or more. Thousands of mine workers are laid off. They don’t have cash to spend, or money for rent and adequate food.

Many of the unemployed are going back to their villages, in the hope they can at least grow food there. The problem is, many villagers aren’t growing adequate food either, because of lack of resources, poor crop management or poor money management.

No wonder helping small-scale farmers to be sustainable is high on the list of priorities for the Zambian government, at least in theory. This is why we are here.

Roadside bedroom? Furniture store? A carpenter displays his wares. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Roadside bedroom? Furniture store? A carpenter displays his wares. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Tomorrow we are off on another trip to visit the conservation research plots of Golden Valley Research Trust near Lusaka. Many of those who took part in the Kapiri Mposhi field day will be coming with us. This time we’ll be the only ones present so there will be lots of time to ask questions and check out the fields.

I’m excited that interest is so high in learning the conservation farming methods. I just have to remember Mr. Moomba’s fields to believe we’re on the right path.

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