A Village in Africa »

  • Chitelele

    October 25, 2010 @ 3:00 pm | by Ciara Kenny
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    Chitelele is a dance performed by women in all villages at all social occasions in Mfumbeni. The women of almost every village I have visited during my time here have come together to greet me or say goodbye using this form of song and dance.

    For chitelele, the women stand in a circle. Call-and-response songs are led by one member of the group, accompanied by syncopated hand clapping by all women. The dancers take it in turns to perform in pairs or threes, moving around inside the circle as they stomp their feet and wiggle their hips to the beat of the clapping.

    Chitelele is usually practiced at night under the moonlight, and neighbouring villages often hold competitions to see who has the most talented dancers.

    Of all the villages where I was entertained by chitelele dancers, the ladies from Chilobwe village hold my vote!

  • Living with disability and discrimination in Makwatata

    @ 9:00 am | by Ciara Kenny
    Goodson Nsanje and his wife Leya Njamini at work at their home in Makwatata

    Goodson Nsanje was born with a deformity which affects both of his legs. He can walk courtesy of leather pads which he attaches to his knees, but day to day life for him in Makwatata is a struggle, largely because of the discrimination he has experienced for most of his life.

    He was a small boy when his parents moved from their home in Makwatata to the Copperbelt in search of work. “My parents were extremely poor, and they could not afford to send me to school because I had special requirements as a disabled boy. They sent me to live with the Sisters of Charity, and they raised me,” he says.

    “I received a lot of support from the Sisters. They provided me with an education, and they also guided me spiritually, helping me to accept my disability. They taught me that I was created by God, and I must love myself the way I am. Sure, I was jeered by some people when I was growing up, but I also had a lot of friends,” he says. “I was quite sheltered.”

    In many ways, Goodson was lucky. The vast majority of disabled children in Zambia don’t ever go to school, and can suffer from exclusion and abuse from a very early age, even by their own families.

    There is no reliable data on the number of disabled people in Zambia. The government has attempted in the past to establish statistics through the national census, but the responses to questions posed about disability are subjective because of the social stigma attached to being disabled.

    When he was 20 years old, Goodson’s parents moved back to Makwatata, but they were still unable to support their son, and he went to live with the friars of the Chikungu Mission 2km from Makwatata. With the help of Brother Henriot, a missionary from Germany, Goodson secured a place on a tailoring course at St Anne’s Cathedral Training School in Chipata, which caters for both disabled and non-disabled people.

    “After I completed my course, the Sisters gave me a sewing machine so I could move back to Makwatata and start making some money for myself. I was happy, and started looking for a woman to marry,” he says.

    “I wanted a woman who was also disabled. Word began to spread, and soon a man came to visit me to say that he had a sister who was also looking to get married.”

    Leya Njamini had lost the power in one arm and one leg several years previously when she contracted polio. She was of a similar age to Goodson, and doing the tailoring course in St Anne’s that he had recently completed. They got on well, and were married shortly after meeting in 1987.

    “Her parents never asked for a dowry from me,” says Goodson. “They were good people, and knew I couldn’t afford to pay. They said ‘God has blessed us that our daughter has found someone special, and we will be rewarded in heaven.’”

    The couple had four children together, but as the years went by, it became harder and harder for them to support themselves financially. “The sewing machine made us very little money. We buy second hand clothes in town and remake them into new clothes, but there is little profit in this,” he says. “I approached the church again for help, but they said there was nothing else they could do except pray for me.”

    Poverty and disability are closely linked in Zambia, and also self-perpetuating. Poor maternal health, inaccessibility to preventive or curative services, and dangerous work environments make poor people more susceptible to disability in the first place.

    Lack of access to adequate healthcare and exposure to unsafe environments can compound disability, and thus exacerbate poverty as the disabled person’s ability to make an adequate income to support themselves is reduced. Disabled people are less likely to attend school or be employed, and are therefore more likely to become and remain poor.

    The cycle between poverty and disability is also fuelled by social discrimination, stigmatisation and exclusion. Many, especially disabled women, suffer from sexual abuse, and are often not allowed to marry.

    Like every other member of the community, Goodson also has to farm to support his family. “I grow maize and groundnuts on my own small farm for my family to eat, but it is a big challenge doing such physical work as a disabled person. I had to start piece-works on other people’s farms to make some extra money, but in my condition, they pay me less than half what they would pay an able bodied person for my day’s work.”

    A couple of years ago, Goodson approached a Muslim businessman to see if he wanted help on his land. “He recognised my plight and became my sponsor. He has supported me and my family since, and helped me to build my house. I don’t know where we would be without him.”

    The vast majority of disabled children in Zambia don’t ever go to school, and can suffer from exclusion and abuse from a very early age, even by their own families.

    “Locally, there is nobody who supports me. I have some friends here in Makwatata, but there are also a lot of people who exclude me and my wife because they think we are not equal to them.”

    Goodson says that discrimination is by far the biggest challenge he faces as a disabled person. “There is a lack of awareness in the community about disability,” he says. “For example, when people come to the village to talk about HIV, or development projects, we are not invited to the meetings.”

    Disabled people are commonly excluded from development programmes, as they are often unable to contribute the finances, labour resources or time which many of the schemes require, and they are also often viewed as unreliable debtors for credit programmes.

    He also believes that disabled people from rural areas have less support than those living in the city. “In the city, people can become members of organisations like the Zambian Council for the Disabled, and join their special business groups making furniture and things like that, but there are less opportunities for us in the countryside.”

    Goodson is determined to change the situation for disabled people in Makwatata and the surrounding villages, and is the current chairperson for a local branch of the Zambian National Association for Handicapped Persons. The branch has 57 members, six of whom live in Makwatata. They have registered with the government as an official group, and meet once a month at his home to give support to one another and discuss their business plans.

    “We have just finished moulding bricks for a pig pen, and we already have 12 chickens,” he says. “I hope we will be able to make some money together in the future, but for the time being it is good to spend time together.”

  • Generations of villagers living positively together with HIV

    October 24, 2010 @ 9:00 am | by Ciara Kenny
    Rachel Ngoma and Elita Ng'ombe

    Rachel Ngoma and Elita Ng'ombe

    “A few years ago, there was a lot of stigma in the community surrounding HIV and Aids. We were not permitted to join other groups or organisations, or access loans, for example. But things are definitely changing, and people who discriminate against us are not generally tolerated by others in the community.”

    At 57 years of age, Elita Ng’ombe is the oldest member of the Chitsi Tsi Mutso support group for people living with HIV. The members meet in Fisheni village, but come from several surrounding villages, including Makwatata.

    Elita is from Petaoke village, but moved to Fisheni to get married. When her brother died from HIV in Petaoke, his wife came to live in Fisheni, and Elita’s husband began an affair with her. Unfortunately, this is a common practice in Zambia, as widows are often regarded as the property of their late husband’s family. Both of them since passed away from the virus, but Elita, who contracted the disease from her husband, is now living a healthy life on ART.

    Elita has three grown up children. The real tragedy is that her 32 year old daughter also contracted the disease from her (now late) husband, and passed it on to her own daughter, who is now two years old. Three generations of the one family now live together with HIV, and Elita says that they receive invaluable emotional and logistical support from other members of the Chitsi Tsi Mutso group.

    Back in 2003, World Vision provided HIV testing for all widows and widowers in the area. Eight people who were found to be positive set up a support group with the help of the NGO, and the group has since grown to 18 members.

    “World Vision provided us with spiritual guidance, and also helped us to start a communal river garden, so we could grow nutritious food,” Elita explains. World Vision are no longer supporting the group, but they are now affiliated with the Network of the Zambian People living with HIV/AIDS (NZP+), an nationwide NGO supporting and advocating on behalf of groups like theirs.

    Rachel Ngoma, the group’s treasurer, moved to Chipata when she married her husband in the late 1990s. Her husband passed away after a long illness in 2005, but he was never tested, and thus never diagnosed as being HIV positive.

    “Things are definitely changing, and people who discriminate against us are not generally tolerated by others in the community.”

    “I was completely ignorant about the disease. It was only when I moved back here after he died that I got talking to some of the members of this group, and they encouraged me to get tested because it sounded like he had died from Aids. My test was positive, and I began ART. I had suffered a lot from malaria before but I thought I was just unlucky. I feel stronger since I started treatment, and don’t get malaria anymore.”

    Elita also feels much stronger since she began on ART. “Before I was diagnosed, I was in and out of the clinic regularly with different ailments. The sickness made me weak, and it was hard for me to keep working. But since I began ART, I can do just about anything I want. I feel very healthy.”

    “We support eachother in every way we can. If one member gets sick and has no support, we arrange to get them to the clinic,” says Elita. Both women have spoken on the local radio station, Radio Breeze, about living with HIV. “We are lucky, because we have support from one another. The community are sensitised now too, and are very accepting.”

    Their experience of living with HIV in a community that supports them stands in stark contrast to Esther Sakara’s lonely struggle with the virus just 5km away in Malume village, where there is no support group in place. She is too weak to visit the clinic for ART, suffers discrimination and verbal abuse, and is forced to beg to feed her children as she has no financial or logistical support.

    You can read Esther’s story here.

  • Maize farmers still waiting for payment from Food Reserve Agency

    October 23, 2010 @ 9:00 am | by Ciara Kenny
    FRA depots are dotted around rural areas, managed by local co-operatives. The biggest one in Mfumbeni is located in Chikando village, and is run by the Chipata District Farmers’ Association

    FRA depots are dotted around rural areas, managed by local co-operatives. The biggest one in Mfumbeni is located in Chikando village, and is run by the Chipata District Farmers’ Association

    Maize farmers in Makwatata, like hundreds of thousands of farmers all over Zambia, have been left unpaid by the government’s Food Reserve Agency (FRA) for last year’s harvest, and many are struggling to make ends meet as the rainy season approaches.

    “The farmers are angry, and worried,” says Richard Soko, Chairperson of Mfumbeni Development Association. “They have been waiting on their money for almost three months now. They need this money to send their children to school, and to buy food, but most urgently, to buy fertilizer to use on their land before the rains come.”

    “This problem is affecting farmers all over the country. The government has not budgeted well, and now we are all left in a state of uncertainty,” says Soko.

    Under the national Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), members of local farmers’ groups and co-operatives are entitled to sell their maize to one of the many FRA depots around the country for a fixed price of 65,000Kw per 50Kg bag, almost twice what the farmers receive from private farm-gate traders. They are given a receipt for the sale, and must then travel to Chipata on a specified date to collect their money. The problem this year, however, is that the FRA has not yet set a date for the majority of farmers to collect their money.

    The Food Reserve Agency was created by the Zambian government in 1996 in order to maintain a strategic food reserve, and manage storage facilities and crop marketing for maize. It specifically targets smallholder farmers in remote areas who do not have access to markets because of high transport costs involved in travelling to business centres.

    The grain stocks held by the FRA amounts to up to 600,000 metric tonnes of maize at a time. The main aim of the FRA is to stabilize prices and distribute revenue to farmers as well as ensure national food security.

    This problem is affecting farmers all over the country. The government has not budgeted well, and now we are all left in a state of uncertainty

    According to the Times of Zambia, the FRA requires a total of 1.5 trillion Kwacha to buy all the maize from farmers in the country this year. “This is a colossal amount of money which the treasury alone cannot provide given the limited resource envelope,” says President Rupiah Banda.

    Last week, Banda announced that the government had secured a further 632 billion Kwacha in addition to a 700 billion Kwacha loan from a consortium of commercial banks for maize purchases, and that 150 billion Kwacha would be distributed on a weekly basis from now on until all farmers have been paid.

    Many farmers are worried, however, that they will not receive their maize money on time to purchase government subsidised fertilizer, which the FRA willstop distributing at the end of this month.

  • Access to knowledge and markets makes farming a profitable business

    October 22, 2010 @ 3:00 pm | by Ciara Kenny
    John Mwale and his cabbages

    John Mwale and his cabbages

    John Mwale is one of Makwatata’s most successful smallholder farmers.

    In his garden, he grows tomatoes, cabbages, rape, okra, beans and pumpkins, but on a much larger scale than most other farmers in the village.

    There are just 15 families in Makwatata who are lucky enough to have land along the stream where they can cultivate garden vegetables. Mwale inherited a small garden in 2001, and began growing tomatoes and cabbages.

    With the help of MK-SAP and Self Help Africa, John participated in a number of one-week training programmes, where he learned about vegetable production, fish farming and business management.

    “One of the most basic things I learned on the course was the benefits of crop rotation,” says Mwale. “My crops are healthier now, and are less susceptible to disease.”

    Mwale began introducing more crops, and his yield grew year on year. The Chief recognised his potential, and gifted him a larger plot of land next to the stream. Mwale’s garden now encompasses three hectares, the largest in Makwatata. He also farms fifteen hectares of maize and groundnuts closeby.

    As part of the business management course, Mwale learned about the benefits of market orientated production, whereby markets are found for produce before planting. Through MK-SAP and Self Help Africa, Mwale was linked to St. Monica’s Secondary School in Chipata, and he has been their sole vegetable supplier for the past two years. As the school kitchen caters for 1200 boarders, huge quantities of vegetables are needed, which means considerable profits – during term time, the school orders 500kg of vegetables every week at a cost of 1000Kw per kilo, providing Mwale with an income of 2 million Kwacha (€300) every month, in addition to the produce he sells to smaller buyers.

    Beside the stream, he has dug two manmade fishponds, 15 metres by 10 metres in size. The ponds yield 6000 bream per year, which Mwale sells in the village and in Chipata. “There are no big rivers or lakes near here, so there is a huge demand for fresh fish. I get a very good price for them.”

    Mwale employs one full-time worker on his farm, which in itself is extremely rare. “I have so many orders now that I am employing piece-workers [casual workers] more and more,” he says.

    “Last year, I raised enough money from selling my tomatoes to buy a water pump. This has cut my labour by half, as I used to spend most of my time in the garden fetching water and watering the vegetables.”

    The water pump has clearly made a huge difference to Mwale’s garden, but at 1.8m Kwacha (€275), they are unaffordable for the majority of smallholder farmers. Mwale is the only farmer in Makwatata to use one.

    “I know I am very lucky, but I am also a very hard worker. I am securing a good future for my children” he says.

    John Mwale’s success is a clear example of how hardworking farmers can meet the quantity and quality requirements of large buyers if provided with the credit, organisational, business, marketing and technical skills, as well as the necessary information and technology.

    The majority of smallholder farmers in Zambia live in remote areas that are far from main roads or transport infrastructure, which greatly hinders their ability to connect with buyers who pay fair and stable prices. As Makwatata is located on the main road, just 30km from Chipata, it was not as difficult for Mwale, with support from the NGOs, to connect with St Monica’s as it can be for other farmers in more remote areas.

    The challenge now is to find viable and successful methods of connecting smaller farmers to potential consumers that will pay fairer prices than the briefcase buyers that are often a farmer’s only means of selling surplus produce, especially in remote areas – an approach that involves collaboration between communities of farmers and organisations in the private, public and voluntary sector.

  • Suffering HIV alone

    @ 9:00 am | by Ciara Kenny

    Esther Sakara is forty years old. Her face is drawn, and her eyes distant. In her thin arms she holds her two year old daughter, whose gestation brought Esther the news that she was HIV positive.

    “When I was pregnant, I had a routine AIDS test at the clinic, and they told me I was positive. I couldn’t believe it, as I hadn’t felt sick,” she says.

    “When I came home and told my husband, he refused to believe it either, and told me to forget about it, that the test must be wrong.”

    Soon after she gave birth, Esther began to feel unwell, and went to be tested again. The diagnosis confirmed her fears, but her husband was still in denial and refused to be tested himself.

    Esther’s husband is a drinker, and has a woman in another village. He has abandoned her for this other woman, and has hidden the fact that his wife has HIV from her. He is afraid to tell her, because the likelihood is that he has passed on the virus to her also.

    “I am sick all the time now. I get bad coughs, bouts of weakness, and stomach upsets. I am not on ART (Anti-Retroviral Treatment), because I became too weak too fast to travel to the clinic.”

    The Zambian government introduced free ART for all those who need it back in 2006, but infrastructure is a huge problem for people who need transport to treatment centres, especially the poor in rural areas

    “When I was healthy, I was a strong woman, and a farmer. Now I am weak, and I can’t go to the field anymore. Last year, I was still able to cultivate a small area at the edge of my field, but all that food has gone now. I have no support financially from anyone in the village, and I have to beg to feed myself and my children.”

    “I am sick all the time now. I get bad coughs, bouts of weakness, and stomach upsets. I am not on ART (Anti-Retroviral Treatment), because I became too weak too fast to travel to the clinic.”

    When her daughter was born, she was given prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) treatment, and Esther hopes that this was enough to prevent her contracting the virus, though she does not know for sure. “I don’t know what her status is now. I am afraid she might be positive, but I am too weak to carry her 3km to the clinic, and I cannot afford the transport.”

    “I don’t have any support here. There is no support group for HIV positive people like there is in some other villages. A few of the women tried to set one up, but they couldn’t organise it. We talk together sometimes, but mostly I feel very alone.

    “I suffer stigma from other people, they tease me. The few times I have been to the clinic in the past, I have seen many people who are HIV positive like me, but here in the village, people tend to hide their status from others if they can.”

    Esther’s biggest concern is for the future of her six children. One is married, but the other five are all under the age of 14, and she does not know who will take care of them.

  • Farmers groups benefit from government and NGO support

    October 21, 2010 @ 9:00 am | by Ciara Kenny
    Unis Neayu and children

    All over Zambia, smallholder farmers are benefiting from improved access to resources, knowledge and markets by becoming a member of a local group or co-operative.

    Unis Neayu was one of the founding members of the Chiyanjano Women’s Group in Makwatata. The group has been operating for four years, and she says that the 22 members, which include four men, have benefited in many ways.

    “We have a number of schemes running in the group,” she says. “We rear pigs to sell, and are thinking of buying chickens as a group in the next few months. We have received watering cans and seed through Self Help Africa, which has improved the quality of the vegetables that we grow in our gardens. We have also received advice on crop rotation and diversification.”

    Unis and her husband now grow tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, onions, rape, pumpkins, peas, sugar cane and guavas in addition to seasonal crops of maize, sunflowers, groundnuts and cotton.

    “We have a constant food supply throughout the year, and a constant income as we can sell the surplus,” she says. “We have gained a lot of knowledge through the group.”

    The groups are facilitated by camp officers from the Ministry of Agriculture, and many are also supported by NGOs. Groups can have members with something in common, such as people living with HIV, widows or women’s groups, and others are open to all. Most groups charge a 50,000Kw (€8) joining fee, and every member must buy at least one share (also 50,000Kw) per year.

    Most groups have a common plot of land, or shared livestock. A percentage of the proceeds are shared among the group members, and the remainder, along with money raised from joining fees and shares, is invested back into the group to expand its livelihood activities, allowing their income generating potential to expand year on year. Members are obliged to participate fully in all group activities, and can be expelled from the group at any time by the Chairperson.

    Groups and co-operatives like Chiyanjano are also eligible for government subsidies, which is one of the main attractions for members. The government run Food Reserve Agency (FRA) offers them a fixed price of 65,000Kw per 50Kg bag of maize, almost twice what the farmers receive from private farm-gate traders.

    Under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), members of groups are also entitled to purchase four bags of subsidised fertilizer from the FRA, at 50,000Kw per bag. The cost per bag from private traders in Chipata is currently 165,000Kw, so the scheme offers considerable savings.

    However, four bags are enough to fertilize just four acres (enough, according to the FRA, to grow maize to feed one family for the year), and the majority of farmers must buy additional bags at very high and unregulated prices if they want to grow maize to sell. Almost every farmer I have spoken to in Makwatata has said that the cost of fertilizer hinders the size of their harvest, and thus their annual income, as they cannot afford to buy enough fertilizer for their whole farm.

    The group must meet a number of requirements before they are officially recognized and their members become entitled to farm inputs. They must first apply for a registration certificate with the Registrar Society of Zambia; open a bank account; form a set of by-laws for the group; establish a recognized area (i.e. village) where the group will be based; and keep a registrar book.

    Local Authorities have begun to recognise the value of already mobilized and motivated groups of citizens, and are now utilizing the groups as mechanisms for spreading knowledge about issues such as sanitation and healthcare.

    There are many farmers in Makwatata who are not part of a group, and therefore unable to access the benefits that being a member brings. “I would like to join one of the groups, but the joining fee is too expensive,” says Mauto Zima, a poor farmer living in Makwatata with his wife and four children. Others lack the motivation, or are too individualistic to see the benefits of people working to achieve a common goal.

    “I would like to join one of the groups, but the joining fee is too expensive”

    But for those who recognise the potential benefits, joining a group can make a big difference to their family’s livelihood and food security. “With proper management, a farm can multiply its basic profits by four by being part of a group or co-op and accessing the Farmer Input Support Programme,” says Richard Soko, Chairperson of the Mfumbeni Development Association.

    “These programmes have lifted living standards for group members considerably in the last few years. You can see it in the number of people now sending their children to school, wearing shoes, and buying bicycles. They may seem like small things, but they are small steps in the right direction.”

  • Traditional birth attendants deliver new life in rural areas

    October 20, 2010 @ 9:00 am | by Ciara Kenny
    Traditional Birth Attendant Christina Chulu

    As a traditional birth attendant, Christina Chulu has assisted in the delivery of approximately 500 babies in the villages surrounding Makwatata over the past fifteen years.

    “I am on duty 24 hours a day,” she says. “When a woman goes into labour, someone will come to tell me and I must leave what I am doing in my field or at home to attend to her.
    “Many women prefer to give birth with a TBA because we have more time to give them. At the clinics and hospitals, the nurses could be taking care of four or five women at once, but usually I have only one woman to attend to.”

    The closest health clinic to Makwatata is 5km away. There is no doctor here, just one nurse, who is not on duty at night. The closest hospital is in Chipata, 30km away. Many women opt to deliver with a TBA because of this, and others have no choice once their labour begins.
    Many health centres in rural areas have a dormitory where expecting mothers who live far away can stay in the weeks coming up to their due date in case they go into labour, but for the majority of rural women, a TBA is more convenient and affordable.

    Legally, babies born with a traditional birth attendant must be brought to the antenatal clinic at the local health centre for a check up and registration within six days of birth.

    Impoverished women in rural areas are most at risk of maternal death or stillbirth, as the cost of transport makes it more difficult for them to access medical care when they go into labour. This is compounded in remote rural areas, especially those with a low population density where the nearest TBA may be just as far away as the health clinic.

    Zambia has an extraordinarily high infant and maternal mortality rate. Infant mortality rates are dropping, from 191 per 100,000 births in 1992 to 119 per 100,000 in 2007. However, Zambia still has a long way to go if it is to meet its Millennium Development Goal target of just 56 per 100,000 by 2015.

    Almost 1% of women pregnant in any given year will die in childbirth in Zambia, with a lifetime risk that one in 16 of all women will die as a result of maternal health problems. The most immediate causes of maternal deaths are the lack of access or uptake of maternal health services such as antenatal and delivery care, poor nutrition, and malaria. Haemorrhage, sepsis and obstructed labour account for half of all maternal deaths, and the risk among teenage mothers is twice that of those aged over 20.

    Just half of all Zambian babies are delivered at health facilities. The remainder are delivered at home, with or without a TBA. The incidence of stillbirth and maternal death is much higher for babies born in the absence of a skilled health worker, but thankfully this is improving since the government introduced formal training and delivery kits for TBAs.

    Christina was delivering babies as a TBA for five years before she received eight weeks’ formal training along with eight other local women back in 2000. “I began delivering babies as an assistant to the elderly traditional birth attendants in my village. They showed me how, and I learned from their experience,” she says.

    “I learned so much from the training. Before the course, many of the babies I delivered would die, but I am proud to say that not one of the 386 babies I have delivered since have died.”

    “Before the training, the woman used to give birth on the floor. We didn’t realise that this was unsanitary, and could put the baby at risk. Now, we have mats with plastic covers and blankets to make sure the area is clean for the baby to be received.”

    “Many women prefer to give birth with a TBA because we have more time to give them.”

    One of the most fundamental lessons that she learned on the course was to insist that women with complications deliver in a clinic rather than at home. “We were told that all women with HIV, diabetes, high blood pressure or a disability must go to the clinic, where there is an ambulance to bring them to hospital if something goes wrong during the birth. I think this is the biggest reason why all my deliveries since have been successful,” she says.

    The community have built a structure near Christina’s home where expecting mothers can stay, and she was recently provided with a delivery bed by World Vision (@WorldVisionIre).

    The Zambian government are now encouraging all women to deliver at a health clinic, an initiative which Christina supports. “It would relieve my workload enormously, and it would also mean that the women are safer if there are any complications,” she says.

    TBAs play a vital role in rural communities, but many are still under resourced, under trained, and lacking adequate transport or means of communication to enable them to provide the best service. Being a TBA is a voluntary position, so commitment is also a major problem.

    “Most women would bring me gifts to show their appreciation after they deliver, like soap or some vegetables, or a chicken,” she says. “But I have to farm to support myself financially. Most of the other TBAs I know no longer do this job, because it is unpaid, but I love it, and wouldn’t give it up for anything. I feel I have an obligation to do this, to help to bring new life safely into this world.”

    For more information on the Millenium Development Goals you can follow the UN’s posts on Twitter @wecanendpoverty or here on Facebook.

  • Father determined to send daughters to university despite challenges

    October 19, 2010 @ 9:00 am | by Ciara Kenny
    Lanford Mulauzi and two daughters

    “Society has deprived our women of a proper education. I want things to be different for my girls.”

    Lanford Mulauzi has three daughters. The first born was married last year to a teacher at the local school in Chikando village, but he is determined that his other two daughters, Memory (20) and Christabelle (18) will not be allowed to marry until they have finished university.

    “Most other girls of their age would be mothers by now, but I want better things for them than just a domestic life,” he says. “As a parent, my wish is to see my girls working in challenging jobs, so they can lead better lives, and provide a good example to other women in the community.”

    A tiny minority of women, especially in rural areas, attend third level education in Zambia. Just one in five young people complete grade 12, and of these school leavers, just 8 per cent go to university. Young men outnumber women in university by three to two.

    Lanford is one of the bigger farmers in Chikando, and he also owns a small shop. His income, however, is still far too small to send two children to college at the same time. Memory wants to be a teacher, and Christabelle would like to study nursing, but fees for these courses at public universities average about 2 million Kwacha (€320) per term for at least two years.

    “At the moment I am financially handicapped. I have been saving for two years now, and I hope one of them will be able to start next year. I know the value of education and how it will change their lives for the better, so it will be worth it.”

    “I am hopeful that they will both complete their education. If they succeed, and are happy in their professions, I will die a proud man.”

    Lanford says that many people in the community think he is stupid, that he should allow his daughters to marry like all the other girls, but he is determined.

    “At the moment, they are helping me at the farm and in my shop, but they are both looking for something more constructive to do, like some voluntary work in the community. This experience will also stand to them in the future,” he says.

    “I am hopeful that they will both complete their education. If they succeed, and are happy in their professions, I will die a proud man.”

  • Making a house a home in Makwatata

    October 18, 2010 @ 9:00 am | by Ciara Kenny
    Half built house in Makwatata

    With just two small rooms and two tiny windows, a simple stool and a reed mat for a bed, my house in Makwatata is typical of those lived in by young families. Indeed, it was the home of Mike Nyewali and his wife and child for the first two years of their marriage, before they built a bigger house adjacent to it just a few months ago.

    The houses in Makwatata range in size from 5m x 3m (two small rooms) to 10m x 8m (five rooms). The house that I have been staying in is one of the smallest, and would be common for a family with no more than two children, though I admit I found space tight to say the least! The larger houses have simple furniture, perhaps a low table and a few chairs, and the very few families who can afford solar power would have a radio or even a small television set, though I have come across only one in my time here.

    Most houses are used for sleeping and eating only, as the majority of families have a separate outhouse for cooking and food storage. The reason for this is two-fold: cooking is done on an open fire which produces a lot of smoke, and if food is kept outside the main house there is less chance of rats paying a visit – though in reality at this time of year when food is scarce, they will look for food anywhere, and the thatched rooves of every building teem with them.

    Thatched washrooms are used for bathing, where the bather stands on flat stones to elevate themselves from the muck as they wash from a bucket.

    Most houses are used for sleeping and eating only, as the majority of families have a separate outhouse for cooking and food storage.

    Some houses have dug latrines, which are also concealed by thatch or brick. The latrines are 2m deep by 1m wide, and will last the typical family two years before a new one must be dug. There are many families who do not have access to a latrine, which is one of the major causes for concern among NGOs and Local Authorities working to improve sanitation in rural areas.

    Polygamous families may have several houses in their compound, one for each wife and her children, though cooking and washing facilities are often shared.

    All houses also have a structure for storing maize, and another for groundnuts. These are made from woven branches, and thatched with grass to keep out the rain. Households with poultry and small livestock have similar structures for keeping their animals, sometimes made from brick.

    Almost all houses in Makwatata village are made using materials sourced within 200m of the house itself. A hole is dug in the earth near the house to provide clay for the bricks, and the branches used for rafters and grass thatch for the roof are cut from the surrounding bush land. Those who can afford it buy cement to use as mortar, but most use clay mixed with water and river sand, which is also used to plaster the brickwork once the house is built.

    Beautifying the house using coloured clay

    The process of brickmaking is interesting in itself. Once the earth is dug up, the clay is sifted to remove any stones, before water is slowly added to make a stiff paste. The bricks are moulded in a chikomboli made from wood, before they are left to dry out in the sun.

    The bricks are then piled one on top of the other to make a 3m high oven. Channels are left in the oven where burning wood is inserted, before the oven is covered with clay mixed with a little water to seal in the heat. This oven of bricks smoulders for 24 hours, and must then be left for a full week to cool before the oven can be dismantled. A brickmaker charges 500,000Kw (€80) to make bricks sufficient for an average sized house, and another 500,000Kw to lay them. The roof costs another 500,000Kw to thatch, though some opt for a tin roof which costs more than twice this amount.

    Once the bricks have been laid and the roof constructed, many of the houses, especially the smaller ones, are smeared with clay, inside and out. The clay dries to form a hard render. This clay can be mixed with ashes (white) or charcoal (black) or dye from the roots of local plants (red and orange) to produce different coloured render, which can be used to make patterns. Most houses have a “veranda” to elevate them from floodwater during the rainy season, and these are often beautified using clay mixed with maize porridge to make a shiny surface.

    One of the first things I noticed on my arrival in Makwatata was the amount of construction going on in the village. Great big mounds of red bricks are a common sight, piled up beside half-built houses. Unfortunately, many of these houses are left like this for months or even years, as the owners wait for more money to pay for materials and labour to complete them. Reminds me of somewhere else I know well…

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