Report from the Communal Farm
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!