Kalimba farm

August 22, 2011 | Theadora, PSY, Shared World, Zambia

This past weekend the team celebrated Caro’s (LLt’s supervisor- past SWI pasrticipant) 23rd birthday at Kalimba farm (a type of reptile farm about an hour from Mama’s). We got to see ittty bitty crocodiles as well as massive crocodiles that could eat you in one fell swoop. I got to try crocodile burgers for the first time- they were actually quite tasty (very gamy taste).

Wednesday morning the LLT team made our way by minibus to 6 miles (a stop along the Great north road that’s only landmark is a small ntemba (shop)). We were greeted by Idah the community facilitator at the side of the road and then made our first trek into the community to meet with her self help group: Alpha and Omega Orphanage Women’s Club. We were greeted very warmly by a group of about 7 women. After initial introductions we were all seated on a carpet/mat that the women had lain out for us on the ground. The meeting got off to a bit of a slow start as I think we were all a little nervous and weren’t entirely sure how best to start the discussions. But after introducing ourselves and describing a bit about who we were and what we were doing in Zambia the meeting started to get rolling. We discussed with the women some of the groups IGA’s (income generating activities) such as making fritters (an amazing ball of dough that you deep fry in oil- sooo good), doormats (otherwise known as donuts J), keeping village chickens, and caring for orphans in the community.  At the end of the meeting Idah took us to visit her home/school. She is an amazing woman. She lives in a small mud hut where she teaches 30 small children who are otherwise unable to attend school. It was really an incredible experience to see 30 small faces staring up at you from this small home. Idah does receive help from two of her younger children that help to teach the children in her absence. Her dream is to eventually amass enough support and funding to build a small orphanage on her property where the children can receive the proper support and education they deserve. What an incredible woman.

As the meeting came to a close and we began the long walk back to the road side we couldn’t help but notice the sharp contrast between the different households in the community. On the one side there would be a small mud hut with clothes drying over the bushes and trees, and on the other massive homes made of concrete with roman style pillars supporting a veranda. Idah explained to us how in the past few years large amounts of land in the area had been purchased by wealthy Zambians. This influx of wealthier Zambians could potentially be very beneficial to the community as a whole as it could lead to the development of government/community schools in the area. However, Idah explained that the children of the wealthier Zambians in the area simply travelled via minibus to schools in town. There was no support or sense of community between the two different groups. The wealthier community members did not provide any aid to the women or Idah herself in supporting or raising the orphans in the area. It’s a strange concept to wrap your head around.

Thursday morning we met with Sibo the community facilitator for the Kabangwe area. As we made our way towards the meeting we were greeted by about 15-20 Zambian women (and a few men) singing, clapping and shaking their hips. It’s really something else to see that many individuals singing and shaking their hips in unison. They are such a vibrant and energetic group of women. The meeting itself was quite similar to that of the day before; we discussed some of the challenges the self help groups were facing, their dreams for the future, and their daily activities (the 6 groups in attendance Chiyelo,Chimwemwe, Chitukuko, Bwacha, Tiyeseko, Kabonguay SSG). There were several common concerns among the women: lack of access to school for the children (either due to distance or lack of funds to pay for uniforms), difficulties irrigating their gardens, and the high costs of the middle man (the gardeners have to cover the costs of transportation to bring their produce into town, the tariffs of the market, and the fees of the middle man who sells the produce). At the end of the meeting the women tried to teach us how to shake our hips like true Zambian women. It was pretty funny- we all failed miserably. I think Jill was the only one who had any luck with the movement as she has training in dance and was able to shake her hips much more fluidly than the rest of us. The women also tried to teach us how to make this strange sound that they all make- similar to a cheer/shout of joy- they produce this very loud high pitch sound from their throat and then move their tongue back and forth/up and down ridiculously quickly which results in this almost trilling/screaming sound. When you have about 15 women standing in front of you trilling/screaming it’s really something. The women got a great laugh out of watching us try and replicate the sound. I like to think that I’m not that horrible at it (after a few weeks of practice).

The following morning we made our way to 10 miles where we spent the greater part of an hour waiting for our ox cart ride. The community was about a 40minute trip via ox cart into the bush/country side. Now when I say ox “cart” that is quite a generous description, in reality it appeared to be the back end of a truck attached to two ox that would periodically release fluids, that because of the speed of the ox and the proximity of their rear ends to the cart would regularly spray the passenger sitting directly behind the conductor. It was recommended that you kept your mouth closed, else you get a liberal dose of extra protein for the day. The ox cart was a really fun experienceJ. Another enjoyable aspect of the ride was the constant fear of falling out of the cart into one of the many large crevices that lined the path/road to the community. At one point, as we were driving through a particularly hazardous stretch of road, Jess came perilously close to being thrown right off the back end of the cart.

When we arrived in the community there were roughly 90 women there to greet us singing and dancing. The meeting was slightly different from the previous two as there were so many men and women it was held in a large community building. We were seated in the front of the building in front of this large group of women- it was a little intimidating to be sitting in front of such a large group of individuals. The women also served us a very delicious lunch: chicken, relish, and nshima lumps. We were also given a typical Zambian drink called Maheu that was made with boiled water, millimeal, sugar and flour… This drink is not for the faint of heart. We discovered slightly too late that when you finish your drink it is customary in Zambia to refill the persons glass. Unknowingly, Tarun drank the maheu as quickly as possible to get it over with. As soon as his glass was empty, a gentleman came over to refill it for a second time… so funny. Poor Tarun had to drink 2 full glasses of maheu. Eating lunch was a bit awkward as only ourselves and the community leaders were given any food. The rest of the women were only given Maheu to eat after several hours of meetings. I think it’ll take quite a bit to get used to the idea of not everyone having enough food to feed themselves.

A recurring theme emerged after the first few days of community meetings. The women in these areas were facing very similar challenges: many of the women could not afford to send their children to school because they could not afford the cost of school uniforms (which are mandatory); another central concern was irrigation. The majority of the women in the self help groups maintained gardens (which they used to feed themselves and as an additional source of income), but for many of the women watering their gardens proves quite difficult and time consuming as water is not always accessible in the rural areas of Zambia.

At the end of each meeting as part of the discussions we would ask the women if they had any questions for us or concerns. In almost every case one woman would raise her hand and ask us how we were going to help them/ what we could do for them. I found this particularly hard because after having spent several hours talking with each of these groups and having them share with us their hopes and dreams we couldn’t make them any promises or tell them that we would try and help all of them. And so we would tell them that we were simply there to learn as much as possible from the groups, and that we could not work with all of them or even promise change in the foreseeable future, but that we hoped to work closely with a handful of women in the weeks to come towards one goal or another.

 

The women we met over the past few days have been absolutely amazing. They are such an inspiring group of women and I’m so excited to have the chance to work closely with them. 

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