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Back in Zambia

I’m here at the communal farm in Zambia, my first trip to Africa in three years.

Sydney, the farmers, and my friend & helper Janet

The farmers are the women who are the Zambezi Doll Company. One month ago we decided to put the doll business on hold because we needed to concentrate our energies and resources on the farm. There was some ambivalence on the doll makers’ part about this shift, but now they are excited by the farm’s potential. They have already begun raising goats, and have more ideas - they talk about channeling water to a small natural hollow to raise tilapia and building a chicken run to raise “village chickens”. Some local businesses have already expressed interest and are especially keen because it is a women’s project.

Since my arrival a few days ago, there’s been talk about what to name the farm. For now, we’re calling it Zambezi Farm.

My colleague and manager, Sydney Mwamba, has organized the first stages of infrastructure. A road to the farm was created, two solar powered irrigation systems installed, and a large water tank base, goat shed and storage shed constructed. Ten goats and a commodious farm vehicle have been purchased.

Sydney picks the women up at 5:30 in the cool of the morning just as the sun is rising. The drive out is smooth most of the way. The last mile gets bumpier as the red dirt road winds closer to the farm. Then we pass the first corn field, standing strong with a month’s growth.

It is hard to imagine that just two years ago this was uncultivated bush.

The women work in the fields all day, breaking only for lunch. They are asking when we will build a simple house so they can stay and work for a few days. Their energy and stamina is surprising. I think that they are responding to the peace and beauty of the countryside as well as all the possibilities that are emerging.

I watch from a distance as they wield the heavy hoes, their straight backs bent at 90°, cultivating large areas of corn and peanuts that spread out in an organic sprawl. The plan is to go out again on Monday and they ask if I will come. I tell them that I cannot hoe like them, but I will be happy to come and weed.

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