Mission Focus – Bwalya Mponda Island, Lunga District
- Following on from the Lunga District Reconnaisance carried out in July/August 2022, the Bwalya Mponda Island Mission was carried out as planned with a Medical team from Ebenezer Medical Mission. The Mission was planned for five full days however logistical access to the island could only be done the day before the start and on the first day of the program.
- The Medical Mission Team were geared for immediate intervention on the data collected from the Recce and from the on-the-ground discovery upon arrival. The Team carried out a sterling job of dealing with immediate sicknesses and advising the Farm Stew Team of the common community ailment challenges.
- Part of the Farm Stew Team were on the ground earlier to assess the physical challenges on site and to communicate with the Village establishment the Program which helped in promoting the week long mission.
- As expected cultural and physical differences will be evident from one community to the next however Bwalya Mponda was not without surprises and the approach to interventions here had to be managed differently.
- Potential for developing a thriving Farm Stew community(s) is very high as the benefits can greatly outweigh the current alternative or status quo.
Travel to Bwalya Mponda Island
The Forward team of Farm Stew Trainers arrived two days before the entire team using the only local transport available, and after waiting for a substantial time at the Chinsanka harbour, they eventually left on a paddled boat for a 9 hour journey on the water to the island.
Upon arrival they began to prepare for the full Mission Team and to use the time to interact with the island people and invite them for the Medical and Farm Stew programs.
The remaining combined Team arrived in two trips with a motorized hired boat and all the Mission and Camp equipment, over a 3-4hr journey through the canals.
The Team set up Camp at the local area MP’s old office grounds (space provided) next to the river canal and erected a Tent to run the Clinic adjacent to the Camp with the Farm Stew program set up adjacent to the river canal
The Final Team was made up of the following:
MEDICAL: EBENEZER MEDICAL MISSION – 1 Medical Doctor/Gynaecologist, 1 Epidemiologist, 1 Counsellor, 1 Nurse (The Eye and Dental Team from nearby Mansa Hospital did not make it as much as the Eye Team were in great demand) WILDERNESS GATE: FARM STEW – 1 Senior Trainer, 1 Trainer, Country Director and 1 Logistics & Planning
Tuesday, 27th September2022.
A preliminary and essential official start was a combined Team visit to the Chief; Chief Bwalya Mponda.
After the formalities, the Team was introduced to the Chief, who heartily welcomed the Team to his Chiefdom and especially the Mission. He noted that they were expecting and looking forward to this Mission (having met with him during the reconnaissance carried out earlier). He indicated that he would be one of the first to be seen at the Mission Clinic to lead by example and would engage his assistants to ensure they attend the Farm Stew program.
The Team also visited with the Local School administration and the Government Health Clinic Officer.
Challenges in the community
EBENEZER MEDICAL Report (Separately provided) covered the Disease Burden; conditions affecting the community noted as congenital anomalies, communicable and non- communicable diseases with the top 5 in decreasing order; scabies, gastrointestinal, eye, hypertension and tuberculosis. The Report covered Predisposing Factors such as poor sanitary conditions and water pollution; Dietary Deficiencies; Lack of and the inappropriate use of Mosquito nets (malaria peaking in the rainy season); Drug Stock Outs and inadequacies at the Local Clinic.
FARM STEW Trainers met with the locals to mark the beginning of the training. Farm stew trainers discussed with the initial group of people to find out the challenges they are facing in the village and how best they can reduce or even eradicate the challenges. Bwalya Mponda like many other remote villages in developing countries is facing problems of: a. High levels of Poverty, b. Hunger, c. Diseases, d. Poor water sources.
After ascertaining the above stated problems, FARM STEW Trainers then had an opportunity to introduce a sustainable solution, the recipe to abundant life “F.A.R.M.S.T.E.W”.
The Island’s main staple food is fish, rice and cassava, the Trainers then discussed the importance of growing different types of vegetables to supply the blood with lots of different minerals and vitamins, especially orange food like pumpkin’s, carrots, butternuts, orange sweet potatoes, orange maize to overcome eye problem which most people are facing on the island. Land is generally fertile for growing sorghum, maize, groundnuts, cassava, sweet potatoes and ground fruits. Mango trees thrive very well as evidenced from the available trees.
The area is prone to flooding (hence the widespread rice farming)but there are substantial areas that flooding does not occur.
Poor farming methods and a lack of knowledge on best practice, leading to little variety with two types of vegetables and poor yields. Sadly there are literally no indigenous trees which is caused, it is understood, by deforestation carried out over many years, because of the traditional practice of “Fish smoking” for sale. Firewood and Charcoal for Fuel has to be imported.
The Island is accessed by water only, from a number of directions, two specifically, from the mainland and the one more commonly used for supplies and fuel is 3-4 hours on water with a motorized banana boat or 9-12 hours on a paddled boat or canoe. Apart from the local staples, cassava and rice, some vegetables, all other staples such as maize and other relishes have to be imported.
A harbour Market with a few shops and traders exists supplying the basic needs, but the economy evolves around Fish sales mostly during the season for the better part of the year which is brought in from the many fishing camps across the vast wetland swamps. Mobile money facilities exist, however communication (even with service provider presence) is desperately inadequate.
There are no indigenous trees on this Island and along the river canal, bulrushes and reeds are the main vegetation. Existing trees are imported. All Firewood and charcoal is brought in.
Bwalya Mponda Island is one of the more developed of the four large islands in spite of its
challenges and has a Primary school and start up Secondary school. Facilities are very limited and much is lacking as far as water and sanitation is concerned. The school children have little access to the outside world and it’s influences which can be beneficial but also a drawback when exposed to a negative lifestyle prevalent in the village.
The sampling of general population taken during this period reflects what would be expected in this setting with regard to lifestyles and living standards.
Bwalya Mponda Island, with an estimated population of 4,500+ depends on 1(one) borehole for fresh drinking water. The borehole is located in the Catholic Church grounds. There are a number of boreholes spread across the Island which have fallen into disuse or are non functioning for one reason or another. This has been the case for some time. The villagers collect water 3(three) times a week only after queing and as a consequence resort to the use of river water mostly collected from the edge, where bathing, washing and water for cooking is collected. As noted earlier the prevalence of water borne diseases is widespread and to be expected given the scenario.
Religious Activities, Spiritualism & Social Ills
There are a number of denominations established on the island and the largest is the Catholic Church followed by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The far greater part of the population hold on to superstitious beliefs meaning there is a high incidence of witchcraft practised. Alcoholism, promiscuity and drug abuse are commonplace.
Brief of Daily Activities
FARM STEW Trainers demonstrated how to make raised beds for Kitchen Gardens; a 5 meters by 1.1 meter bed, because of the sand soil at the island, double Mulch was done, the beds were created as sinking beds and dry grass was pressed beneath about 10 cm to hold water and then buried and raised the soil about 10 cm, on top another mulch was done to prevent direct sunlight and to hold moisture, also to reduce weeds.
The Trainers commended the organic farming which is been practiced at Bwalya Mponda village, and recommended many to do so, because of it’s sustainability. The locals were encouraged to be practicing crop rotation and allowing the fields to rest every Seventh year.
Lower and upper mulching and Seed Planting.
Proper Space planting was guided to the people, so as to allow individual plants to receive enough sunshine, and manure. When transplanting from nursery beds, the following plant spacing was used.
- 5 lines in 5m x 1.1m of root vegetables like carrots, onions etc.
- 3 lines for leafy greens veggies, eg Kale.
- 2 lines for fruity vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants
FARM STEW Trainers narrated the story of Mountain and river villages. The river village which the people of Bwalya Mponda was able to relate as they live surrounded by water. It was discussed how the two villages were once one village but relocating in order to save their lives, they end up living into different worlds “area’s”, because of their choices the two villages are now different, the people on the river village are healthier due to their good choice to fish and grow their own vegetables, meanwhile the people on the mountain village have many health challenges due to their choices to eat unhealthy food.
Therefore the people of Bwalya Mponda village were advised to make good choices like adopting the Recipe for Abundant Life ” FARMSTEW”.
Bwalya Mponda Village has similar problems facing most villages that have been accessed and after interaction with the attending group it was observed, and the Team was advised that generally family life practices of child spacing was a problem and attempts to introduce family planning were rebuffed and seemingly supported by the older women in the village.
They were also advised to allow their farming land to rest every 7th year, so as not to deprive the soil fertility.
Wednesday, 28th September2022.
Given the medical reports of the condition of patients attending the Clinic, the importance of nutrition and a balanced diet was essential for the people of Bwalya Mponda to understand and they were introduced to the Rainbow Concept in order to provide nourishment for themselves and their family’s and were taken through the importance of different vegetables and fruits. They were then shown how to make; Soy Milk, Tofu, Mandazi and Enriched Bean Porridge.
The Medical Report and discussions with the people attending the Farm Stew program pointed to a need for households to focus on a number of short and long term nutritional changes.
Thursday 29th September 2022
FARMSTEW Trainers discussed the importance of sanitation, starting with personal hygiene (bathing and washing),also how the environment should be kept clean in order to avoid diseases. People were shown how to make Tippy-Tap, and it’s significance to avoid infections diseases like Cholera and other intestinal infections.
- Demonstrated how make two pits, one for compost and one for plastics and glasses.
- The importance of having clean toilets was encouraged. The state of most toilets in the village is actually quite alarming and some of them looked like death traps.
Sanitation on the main island is a challenge as it is because of a high water table. The situation is doubly worse on the vast array of Fishing Camps along the water canals of the swamps, because they are perched on moving small islands that provide very little firm ground to provide meaningful ablutions. These camps are home for these fishermen families for 8-9 months of the year. Drinking, washing water and ablutions are not far from each other and therefore the interventions are much more complicated.
To avoid the many health challenges faced in the community, temperance was discussed. People were directed to Leviticus chapter 11, especially to avoid eating fish without both fins and scales. Also to abstain from alcoholic beverages. Other than abstaining from that which the bible forbids, people were encouraged to moderate even in that which is good.
Friday 30th September 2022
Participants were made to roughly calculate how much they are likely to spend on buying vegetables in a single, in a household with an average 10 persons, were they are spending at least K12 every day on just veggies. Assuming a family buys veggies 250 days out of 365 days times K12 per day, the total spent is likely to be K3,000.
They were all surprised to realize how much they roughly spend on buying vegetables, FARMSTEW Trainers told them that with kitchen gardens, they can save that much and sell to those who do not have gardens to generate more income in addition to that which they make out of fishing.
With enough saves and incomes they can then start putting their moneys together in Village Saving and Loan Association (VSLA),were they can save for a year and get Loans to do bigger projects or businesses.
People were excited realising how they can improve their lives with this knowledge.
The abundance of water around and inside the island has not made the lives of this island people easier. With only 1 (one) operational borehole for a population of 4500+, clean and safe drinking water is a major challenge in the village and community. The only hand pump operated Borehole belongs to the Catholic Church which charges a small fee per family per month. In spite of the charge water is only available 3 times a week as the village has to be divided east and west and water accessed on the alternate days and subject to long queues . As a consequence the Village collects water from the river canal edges for drinking, cooking and washing. As mentioned above the resultant effects are persistent problems of diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid and other water borne diseases which increase during the hot and rainy season. Courtesy of the WAPI Mobile Lab kit support from ‘WAPIs for the world’, the FARM STEW Team were able to obtain samplings of water taken from the river canal edge, the centre of the river and from the available borehole for the Team Epidemiologist to Test. As expected preliminary tests showed contamination in both the river canal edge and centre of the river. The immediate intervention was the issue of a WAPI to each home of the attendees. Considering the unavailability of Firewood on the island (All Energy needs have to be imported), the WAPI enables water to be heated just enough to rid the water of harmful bacteria without having to boil it and thereby save precious fuel resources. A demonstration was done and the WAPIs distributed thereafter. The local (to be Trained) volunteers selected would carry out monitoring of effectiveness.
Sadly the entire School system has no functional Toilets as the existing Pit Latrines are full to capacity, a dangerous situation compounded by inadequate clean drinking water. A major disaster waiting to happen.
Farm Stew Trainers also presented to the attendees how water is useful inside and how it can be used externally, for treating fevers and also bathing.
- The use of Cold/Hot water as a treatment was discussed.
- Steaming in cases of respiratory infections.
- The use of water for dehydration especially and the preparation and use of ORS (Oral Rehydrating Solution) following diarrhea. During another training session, the Medical Team used a ORS mix to treat a severely dehydrated baby successfully.
- Activated Charcoal; Trainers guided the locals how they can make activated charcoal using the eucalyptus and pine trees available on the island. They were also guided to use it internally and externally in the form of poultice, this knowledge was a great deal to the islanders, to treat intestinal infections and snake poisons, as the island is home to some poisonous snakes. This knowledge would have been helpful when a few days after leaving the island a young boy died a few hours after being taken to the local Clinic from a lethal snake bite.
Training of Local Volunteers
During the daily sessions a few hours were set aside at the end of each day to provide basic
training to a select group of local volunteers and prepare them for an intensive Training Program to be planned and held in the Village. The enthusiasm to learn and be able to disseminate was very encouraging.
The Training for Bwalya Mponda should include an Agronomist and for a well worked- through program on crop production.
Levels of Poverty & Standards of Living
Generally the population survives from a subsistence economy of growing what appears to be rice and cassava for marketing and to this is the heavily fished waters in their front and backyard. It would appear that wealth exists to some degree from a quick face value but it is evident that squalor and very poor standards of living persists through most of the village.
The paradox is the abundance of water, good rich soils for organic gardening in and outside flood prone areas and annual crops and even the lack of trees presents itself with opportunity as most any tropical fruit tree would survive.
The dynamics of change in this area are not drastically different from other areas entered, however the differences themselves can become a challenge considering the logistical and environmental issues. Bwalya Mponda it has been advised is one of the better Islands of the main 4 (four) Chiefdoms of Lunga District, the others being further away.
Current living and working, income generation is not sustainable. The seasonal Fishing Camps and villages strewn right across the Wetlands are over fished. Whatever fishing they do, they must still smoke the fish and still import firewood and charcoal for cooking, meaning the resource of fuel is diminishing elsewhere.
Sicknesses will persist as will generational negative practices.
Sound and productive agricultural practices can give a more sustainable living standard on the substantial solid island land available and currently scantily populated. With a successful agriculture community, the fishing can become a secondary business or for consumption and lifestyles can greatly improve for more abundant living.
- A month plus Mission is needed, for FARM STEW, covering all the areas of Training. The Inception Team has been organised and a firm program should be put in place to start as soon as possible.
- An additional Borehole, if not two, would greatly assist the Village water supply problem using the tried and tested Hand Pump with an easy maintenance method.
- Allocation of more WAPIs to the Community and distribution in the Fishing Camps/Villages is very important.
- There is a serious need to address Attitude change about Lifestyle, Temperance and Community Social Ills.
- There is a need to provide seeds for groundnuts and soybean and then teach them how to grow these annual crops
- Reach the other Island communities in this Chiefdom before moving onto the other 3(three).
- To consider the development of a floating water borne Pontoon Clinic that would traverse the whole district and incorporate Farm Stew facilities.
Bwalya Mponda Mission Program
- Ideally two(2) FARM STEW Trainers would be required to begin a month long intensive training in the Village to equip the selected people with a Target of at least 60 minimum to 80 people which would provide immediately 3-4 VSLA groups.
- Preliminary and immediate planting of seasonal crops that would greatly benefit the community nutritional deficiencies such as Soy Beans, pumpkins and yellow potatoes should be attempted, together with carrots for the serious eye diseases and other ground fruits that will do extremely well such as water melons.
- Investigate further the Floating Pontoon Clinic and a mobile Farm Stew Trainer.
Departure from Bwalya Mponda
The Mission finished on Friday the 30th September and the Team departed on Sunday morning for the return 800+km return journey to Lusaka for the majority and a pledge to return to continue what has begun on one Island.