One bag of maize for funerals…

July (that’s his name) gave the most practical lesson on budgeting I have heard yet. We were with a group of small scale farmers in the Serenge area here in Zambia.

When we saw this field last year, we were sure this family wouldn't be hungry. But they were. It takes more than a good field, it takes good planning.

“You have 50 bags of maize (corn),” July says. “How many do you need for grinding?” (That’s for immediate use.) Two, the group answers.
“How many to trade for fish and meat?” Two, they say again.
“How many for seed?” Two again.
“How many for funerals?” One. This is a very real issue. Every family experiences funerals and are expected to help with food.
“Two bags for visitors, five, maybe ten for school fees, and ten for our own food.” The rest can be sold, if there is any left.

July (left) and Chongo (right) believe that what their people need most of all is training in budgeting and planning. These two say their lives are changed because of what they learned.

Planning and budgeting money and resources is new for most of these people. I taught the first very basic lesson a year ago. John Chongo says his house has been changed since then. They are moving forward because they have the resources when they need them. July tells us he used to just use money as it came. If there was money in his pocket, he used it. When someone came to the house to ask for food, or his brother came for help for school fees for his nephew, he would just pull out another maize bag and give. Without planning. He doesn’t do that anymore. He still gives, but he plans for it, and also now demands that those coming to him plan. He is prepared for the future. Things have changed very much for him.

These are the stories that make us feel our time here has brought at least something. But it also shows us how much still needs to be done. These two, July and John, are the leaders. If they weren’t planning, it is likely no one else was either. It’s difficult to find lessons anywhere that are basic enough to teach these people. So I’ve made up my own. If anyone knows where I could find something they think might work, I would be grateful!

We toured some of the fields with the farmers. Most of them look really good. Many farmers are using the conservation farming methods on at least a small portion. When I look at the fields, I think there will be no hunger in these families. But a poll at the workshop says otherwise. Many have no food left in the house by February – with at least two months to go to harvest. That means they have to try to find piecework, or beg or buy if they have money. July is certain it is lack of planning. The leaders have their work cut out for them!

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