I am thrilled to report that things are growing at the AACDP communal farm! The farm workers are busy transforming the raw land we purchased into food for the Mama Bakhita Community.

The farmers are almost all women who I have known for many years. Many are mothers of disabled children who attend the Mama Bakhita School and some are also Zambezi Doll makers. They have planted large plots of corn, soy and peanuts and because the rains have been good this year the plantings are all doing very well. This is deeply satisfying to the community, who have lately been unable to afford the high price of nshima, the maize flour that is the basis of their diet. No Zambian can imagine a meal without nshima, and now our community will be able to produce their own.

Charity Lunda says she likes leaving town to come out to the farm where it is much more peaceful, and the air is fresh. She is looking forward to spending more time there and would like to bring her daughter Deborah, who has cerebral palsy and attends the Mama Bakhita School. Many of the farm workers have children who would all love to be able to spend time at the farm, enjoying the countryside. Helping in the gardens or playing under a tree would be such a pleasant change from town life. Some of the children may also be able to learn new skills.

Next up: A used van

The land is 23 kilometers from town, too far to walk. The only way to get there now is to hire a car. The round trip costs from $25 to $50, too expensive to bring children. We will soon need a vehicle that can transport small groups out to the farm, carry equipment and eventually bring crops back to town. It is a large expense; a used van will cost about $6,000, plus maintenance and fuel costs.

The farmers are very encouraged by what has been accomplished so far. To quote Exhilda Kamonyo, a farm worker and the chairwoman of the Zambezi Doll makers, “This project is something that will change our lives and eventually sustain us. We will not only produce our own food but produce some to sell as well.”

Our sustainable future is blossoming! We are all elated with the progress that has been made. Water, seeds, a piece of earth, and hearts willing to work are making our dream come to life.

Organic vs. Chemical

For those interested in the nitty gritty, below are some notes about farming practices & sustainability.

Now that the initial crops of soy, corn & peanuts are thriving, the next step is to prepare the soil for vegetables. It must be fertilized soon, and Sydney Mwamba, the manager of AACDP in Zambia, feels that at this point we cannot afford to follow organic protocols. I argued that non-organic methods may be cheaper in the short run, but more expensive in regards to the long term health of the people and the land. He agrees, but is being realistic about what we can afford now.

To find a reasonable compromise that addresses both financial and health concerns, I reached out to a friend involved with Island Grown Initiative, an organic community farm near my home in Massachusetts. She sent me links to two very useful African farming projects with programs in Zambia:

  • Women Who Farm Africa has a lively Facebook page that offers advice and contacts within Zambia.

  • Grounded is a Zambian non profit organization that teaches regenerative farming. It was exciting to find so much information that is useful for us at their website.

I am confident that we can move in a direction that is healthy for the land and people. Sydney understands these objectives and will work some of them into a realistic plan for the future. He has assured me that food, vegetation and manure composting will be a growing part of the farm’s methods, especially as goat and/or chicken farming is instituted in the near future. It will all take time.

The AACDP community is so grateful for the donations which helped create these possibilities. Your partnership in the communal farm is vital!

Marsha Winsryg

Director, AACDP

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Updated: Jan 8

Planting the first crop

We are all affected by the pandemic. But can you imagine the toll it has taken in countries less well off than ours? In Zambia, the price of food has tripled, making it impossible to adequately feed families who had been just getting by before Covid. Among the hardest hit were folks like the AACDP community of families who have children with disabilities. We ran a food drive for three months in June, July and August of 2020 to provide at least some staples like corn meal, sweet potatoes, oil and dried fish.

Then our Zambian manager, Sydney Mwamba, came up with the brilliant idea that we start a campaign to buy land and create a communal farm that our small community can run themselves. This concept offers a real and sustainable solution to food insecurity for the years to come. It especially makes sense because these people come from villages that depend on growing crops for sustenance and income; they know how to farm and are very excited about the possibility of using their skills to secure their future.

Farmland has been found and bought, a well dug and a solar irrigation system installed. Tools were purchased and a cow brought to plow the field for the first crops of corn, soy beans and peanuts, (crops that do not need much attention once planted as long as they get enough water). The timing was perfect - the seeds can be sown just as the rainy season begins. When these first staple crops are in the ground, the women (almost all the workers are women, the mothers and grandmothers of the disabled children) will start to cultivate the plants and build fences for protection.

The farm is thirteen miles from Livingstone, so traveling there and back in a single day does not leave enough time to get much work done. A simple shelter has been built so that the small groups who come out to work can stay overnight. When they cannot be there, a neighbor acts as a caretaker, keeping their seeds safe and checking on the farm.

We can see that in the future a vehicle will be a great asset for transport to and from the land and for hauling materials but for now we are discussing other projects such as raising chickens, goats and fish farming, which all have potential to create income for further improvements. "Village chickens" (as farm-raised chickens are called) are prized because they really are much tastier than the ones in the grocery stores and so are a good source of income. But we are starting with goats. They are the cheapest to raise because they forage in the surrounding land, which cuts feed costs and helps cultivate the wild fields nearby.

We will build a goat shed like this

Sydney hopes that within a year we can raise several generations of animals that will bring in an estimated $1,000. For now we have allotted $900 to build a goat shed so that we can begin raising the animals as soon as possible.

Sustainability is the ultimate goal, and we are on the path toward achieving it. Seeing the energy surrounding the farm and its possibilities is truly wonderful. The bottom line is that now there are possibilities where none existed before, and these capable, competent women are determined to transform those possibilities into reality.

The AACDP community is so grateful for the donations which helped create these possibilities. Your partnership in the communal farm is vital!

Traditional Chicken Coops for "Village chickens"

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Updated: Jan 8

Purchasing farmland in Zambia in October 2021

Our friends at GlobalGiving are giving $1,000,000, to be split among nonprofits who receive donations from midnight to 11:59 PM EST on Giving Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021.

All donations of any size are greatly appreciated, at any time. On Giving Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, your donation will be boosted by GlobalGiving. They also match new monthly donations 100% the first month.

If the spirit moves you to make a year-end contribution to theAfrican Artists Community Development Project, these are programs you will be underwriting:

  • The AACDP GlobalGiving Communal Farm project which has made great strides, and needs continued support over the initial months of building, land preparation and planting.

  • The Educational Sponsorship Program, which finds yearly funding for 12 students in our community who want to study a trade or career.

  • The Zambezi Doll Cooperative, an economic development effort for The Zambezi Dollmakers, 12 mothers of children at the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home.

  • The Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home, which provides physical therapy services and special needs education for 25 children with disabilities of every kind.

These programs interact within a small community within Livingstone, Zambia offering a way to improve the quality of life in a sustainable way.

Thank you, as always, for your generosity and support.

In Love and Solidarity,

Marsha Winsryg

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