In the FARM STEW Zambia Q3 report, we highlight our activities from July to September 2023 in the five regions where we operate. Our dedicated trainers, stationed in one location, have been traveling extensively to nurture and support planters in various communities. Some planters serve multiple communities, often covering considerable distances on foot.
Q3 primarily saw our trainers and coordinators out of their base, monitoring and evaluating newly formed and existing communities. The feedback has been mixed; some areas faced challenges while others showed remarkable growth, despite difficulties. Notably, we successfully installed the first borehole in Katubya, Southern Province, and initiated beekeeping in a certified community.
We conducted manual baseline studies in Lunga District wetlands simultaneously with our nurturing program, though some training challenges emerged. We plan to address these issues by improving training methods.
Logistics and travel costs for our team remain a concern. We’re actively pursuing the development of a Training School to better equip our planters and trainers, offering training in local languages, starting with Bemba in the north and eventually Tonga in the south. This initiative will enhance our FARM STEW program with evangelism and basic medical mission training. Our commitment to the community’s well-being is unwavering.
Massage Village – Certified Community
In July, FARM STEW Training from Harare was effectively disseminated to the Masase FARM STEW Community. Existing members enthusiastically implemented the training, and new recruits were trained separately. Furthermore, two additional remote locations are being prepared for training, while the original team has initiated a new VSLA cycle.
The community eagerly received a Beekeeping/Apiary Farming program in September, featuring an intensive four-day training program covering theory, practicals, and fieldwork. It included the provision of bee hives and equipment for the certified community, consisting of 34 members. Notably, a monitoring plan was established to safeguard the program. The Apiary program was a resounding success, setting the stage for continued progress.
Sanitary pad distribution and education
An additional batch of 30 washable sanitary pads was provided to a group of schoolgirls, aiming to support their menstrual hygiene needs. Additionally, a twin VIP toilet was constructed specifically for all the girls within the school community. This initiative aimed to replace the deteriorating and unsafe latrines previously used by the girls, prioritizing their safety and well-being while ensuring dignified and comfortable facilities for their personal hygiene.
Kabansa Village – Recently Organised Community
In a remarkable journey, a FARM STEW-trained group in an Adventist-absent area quickly formed a community of 42 members, later expanding to 56 as they witnessed the positive impact of FARM STEW, notably through kitchen gardens and transformative changes. Their progress, however, faces challenges due to water scarcity in the dry season, with no government-provided boreholes. A Wilderness Gate/FARM STEW and Ebenezer Medical Mission in September saw a considerable turnout, including a two-day FARM STEW program for attendees from surrounding villages, adding 50+ potential members. The original group is starting the VSLA program, with certification expected by November. Efforts to secure boreholes and baseline studies in November demonstrate their commitment to growth and development.
Ncheta Island, Bwalya Mponda Chiefdom – Recently Organised Community
The four communities created in Q2 were consolidated into one community, streamlining efforts and resources. This unity allows the Planters to focus on program requirements, certification, and expansion into less developed areas within the Chiefdom. The dynamics in this district are unique; people are often away seeking sustenance, making regular attendance a challenge. Planters received comprehensive training in Foundations for Farming and VSLA, preparing them for sustainable agro-forestry and agriculture. The Trainer/Coordinator, with the Chief’s support, initiated a baseline study on Chafye Island, a smaller but well-populated part of the same Chiefdom.
Lusaka Urban Communities
Among the five communities established in different areas, four are highly active. Chaisa Zone experienced a leadership change due to personal activities that could compromise the community’s operations, causing a temporary setback in numbers. However, dedicated trainers and planters successfully re-engaged the community, and it is now back on track. This community has grown in number, initiated a community garden, built a VIP latrine, and strengthened the VSLA program. The other three communities (Kabanana A, Kabanana B, and Mazyopa) are making notable progress despite water challenges in these “Squatter Compounds.” While kitchen gardens face issues, they excel in VSLA and prepare for certification. Future plans include exploring oyster mushroom cultivation for income generation alongside beekeeping in Masase after certification.
Chiteteko Village- Kasenengwa Chipata (Eastern Province)
The sole Planter from Chiteteko showed initial progress after returning from Foundations for Farming Training in Harare, promptly implementing new knowledge like composting, as reported in July. However, we’ve received no reports for September, as her means of communication is currently unavailable. Efforts are underway to re-establish contact, as the last message mentioned VSLA but lacked further feedback.
Katubya Village – Zimba District
The follow-up program for 24 Planters yielded mixed results. Water challenges in the 16 villages were addressed differently by each Planter or group. FARM STEW International collaborated with Rotary International to fund a borehole for Sianchimwa, a village demonstrating a strong commitment to the FARM STEW program. This borehole was successfully drilled and equipped with a pump, significantly improving water access for the community and motivating other Planters. A Water Committee was established to manage the borehole, but high demand from surrounding villages is already apparent.
Logistics, including transportation and communication, remain challenging in this remote area. Planters are working diligently to improve living conditions in communities facing poverty, disease, and water scarcity. The Foundations for Farming Training was exchanged for a one-day training session by Daniel Lungu and Pegson Hamanyanga. Despite challenges, efforts continue to prepare these communities for future rainfall and better living conditions.
The FARM STEW program doesn’t venture into areas randomly; instead, it responds to calls for help. This process involves a careful assessment of the landscape and an understanding of the community’s needs. In the past, reconnaissance missions were the norm to gauge the lay of the land. Nowadays, baseline studies are conducted to gain insights into what to anticipate. However, even with such preparations, it remains challenging to predict the mindset and attitudes of potential Planters and the communities themselves.
What is abundantly clear is that where there is want and deprivation, the demand for anything that can positively change lives is almost always accepted wholeheartedly. This acceptance may sometimes be tinged with suspicion, dependent on previous interactions with local authorities. The role of local leadership in these communities is crucial, and so far, feedback has been encouraging, allowing the work to proceed, though not always without challenges.
One of the most significant challenges is logistics, including access and follow-ups. Paradoxically, it is often the areas most challenging to access and work in that need attention the most. Plans for 2024 are in motion to improve conditions for the foot soldiers, aware that some areas will soon be cut off due to the rainy season, emphasizing the urgency of the mission.
Q4 will be dedicated to preparing these areas to ensure food security. This is an escalating issue across the country due to changing weather patterns, underscoring the importance of sustainable agriculture methods, which will be a focal point in 2024. Moreover, there is a deliberate move to enhance the spiritual well-being of each volunteer, Planter, Trainer, and Coordinator, as societal values erode, emphasizing the need to uplift both spiritual and living standards.
The program will place a strong emphasis on beekeeping in rural certified communities, recognizing its high potential. Concurrently, trials for mushroom cultivation are underway, offering an income-generating opportunity for urban certified communities.
Water remains a pressing challenge as FARM STEW pursues the objectives of self-reliance and improved lifestyles in communities where access to this precious commodity is lacking.
Undoubtedly, the demand for additional foot soldiers is increasing, making quality training and a fully equipped, functional team a central focus. The program’s commitment to these objectives reflects its dedication to creating positive and sustainable change in the communities it serves.