Heart of Africa Mission (HAM) asked for money for the next round of fertilizer for the banana plantation. We’d promised to pay for the fertilizer this year to give them time to get back on their feet financially. Basically, we felt it was a bailout and didn’t have too much hope that things would change much. But we’ve invested quite a bit into those bananas so thought we’d give HAM another chance.
It seems it was worth it. Jerry Schuetz was a missionary there for many years and left for a new assignment last April. He visited HAM in October. Jerry wrote us that the farm staff is following Robert’s instructions concerning fertilizer and irrigation procedures precisely. The bananas are giving a decent harvest considering the cold weather they had in June.
Even better, the farm manager visited several other banana farms to discuss plantation management problems. They are actively looking for options for the time when the bananas will no longer produce (within the next two years). These are things we strongly recommended before we left. It is good to see them take these initiatives.
When Jerry left there were dire predictions of the mission going under. Too often it has been the experience that when the whites leave the business fails. But the board hired a new African manager, who is now living on site and seems to have a good rapport with the staff. There, as here, management is everything. Nothing would make us happier than to see the struggling mission farm get back on its feet. This would be especially rewarding because it would be totally Zambian led.
Zambian led initiatives that work should be the goal of all development workers. Most of us go out to the ‘field’ with high hopes of making a big difference. But often reality quickly brings us down to earth.
We believe strongly in helping Zambians to develop successful businesses. Anyone working in Zambia sees that most businesses are owned and operated by either whites or Indians. Few (including farms) are under black African management. Why?
The answers are many and complicated. Some say, “They’re lazy”. But most Zambians we know work very hard. Others talk about the long period of socialism at the beginning of independence that promoted dependence on the state. Cultural traditions and customs are more socialist than capitalist – the village system depended on everyone working together and discouraged independent enterprises.
Low levels of education, high levels of corruption, and almost non-existent access to loans for the average Zambian increase the likelihood of failure. Often we are as discouraged as our African counterparts.
So every report of success, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is grounds for celebration!