Mpanshya

by on January 24, 2012

On the way to Mpanshya to go and do an assessment  of the fields where the community wants to plant Moringa, we took the opportunity  to stop at the hot water spring just outside Chongwe, previously visited by me and the boys but never by Jacqui, it truly is amazing and believe me it is hot, too hot even to wash your hands.

This is one of the amazing places in Zambia that is begging for tourism development and can become a international resort in no time, creating much needed income to the community and Zambia as a whole. There are so many places in Zambia where this holds true, it is an amazing country with lots of potential.

The little valley leading from this stream is really beautiful and the bird life is amazing, this photo was taken in the afternoon, if you were to pass it in the early hours of the morning the steam from the stream snakes like ghost breath above the green vegetation all the way to the end of the march as can be seen in the photo to the right. Apart from the main spring on the top photo there are numerous places where the water is coming out of the ground and from under rocks, it is amazing to see the amount of air bubbles that come up from the bowels of the earth and one can not help but wonder what is happening under the ground for this to occur.

The wonders of nature never cease to amaze me. Unfortunately we did not have time to linger as we had a pretty full schedule in Mpanshya and still had about a hundred kilometers to travel. I so wanted to walk downstream and see how far downstream the water stays hot and how this affects the plant-growth downstream, something that is on my to do list on one of the trips to Mpanshya, and maybe take a couple of shots of the birds for our followers who are into bird watching.

Saturday morning we visited Kamitowo, the village under Headman Kayabvu, consisting of 350 households with over 2300 people in the village. In the picture on the left you will see a traditional well and watering system for rural villages in Zambia, not only does this well supply the drinking water to some of the people in the village it also serves as the water source for agriculture.

This is part of the problem in Africa: rural villages  do have the resources, the manpower and the very fertile land to make a substantial difference  to the GDP of Zambia,  grow quality export crops and even create quality export products if they get micro investment to capitalize on their  natural resources in a ecological friendly way.

This particular well never dries up and fills quite rapidly, still can you imagine the manpower to water fields a bucket at a time which has to be pulled from the well and then carried to the field or rolled there in 210 Litre drums, to water a couple of hectares, and this is the reason why they only plant during rainy season, the dry season here is very dry, not because there is a water problem, the village has a wonderful catchment area as can be seen on the picture to the right, and this picture does not really do justice to the potential of water management and electrification of this village, without damaging the ecology or swallowing up agricultural land and most important not displacing people and villages. Africa and especially Zambia does not have a water problem, we do however have a serious water management problem that in turn have a devastating effect on our agricultural sector.

There is so much flood water that is simply lost to this village during rainy season that it is a crime, there are places in this valley where a short span dam-wall will keep the majority of that water stored for the dry season, enabling the farmers of the village year round agriculture, the ability to add to their products by doing aquaculture as well as opening up the possibility for tourism. As this spot is in the hills and breathtakingly beautiful if you can imagine  a dam there, and still quite a bit of game in the area, to top it all off it will enable the village to install mini hydro and as this suggested dam is quite a bit higher than the fields for agriculture, allow them to use gravity for irrigation, almost year round.

The will to develop is there, the energy input from the people are there and the ability to work together for the common good is there, although it requires some skills development and capacity building, but if we as developers are not here to do exactly that then what are we here for? What is interesting for us is the fact that there have been different organizations in this community, yet it seems that no one has ever painted for the villagers the bigger potential  that their environment is offering them for real development, that leapfrog jump to unleashing their potential.

As I have said earlier, the will to develop is there, and the effort is there – here is the field they have prepared for the planting that will take place on Friday, this field will hold, once completed, approximately 30,000 Moringa trees and will see an increase of income for the ten households working together on this particular field of about USD45,000 per year, this will see a jump in income from under a dollar per day per family to USD370 per family.

We don’t believe that our aim as developers should be survival, as we believe the people of Africa deserve prosperity and abundance, and based on their resources, their will to develop and move forward we believe it is realistic and do-able. Developers who don’t hold this belief are really not good for Africa and especially not good for Zambia. How can a person who is meant to mobilize the community be negative about the ability of the community to achieve this? If there is a problem with participation, working together, or a culture of entitlement or wanting development on a platter, is this not the very work, skills, understanding that the volunteer or NGO  is suppose to teach and overcome?

This was a field that was previously used and all the big trees have been removed, as they plan to expand this field it was a good opportunity to stop them removing any other big trees and we went into a lengthy discussion about farming with nature and keeping the ecology of nature in place for the management of pests, what to do to bring back the natural predators, who are our friends (birds, frogs, lizards and chameleons) and how to bring them into the equation. We also used this time to discuss the water issue and the watering needs of Moringa and the system they have in place at the moment, and the possible systems that might help them to save on the labor intensive methods they have in place now. Composting was discussed and the expansion of the field without any deforestation. In overall it was highly successful and I really enjoyed the walk into the hills. In this village we are going to do a test plantation of 50 Moringa trees in the hills without taking out any of the natural trees… can’t wait to see what the Moringa tree will teach us on this one, doing is the best teacher after all.

Here we are at a second field within the same community and as with the other field this field will serve about ten households that will work together for the planting, upkeep, harvesting and partial processing of the field.

Every field is different, does not matter how close they are together, this field is on a slope and for the ease of irrigation needs to be contoured, might be more labor now but irrigation will become easier and their one will save more than the original labor doing the field. The headman Mr Kayabvu, his wife and their son can be seen standing on the left, the interest and enthusiasm was surprising, especially Mrs. Kayabvu, on the right is Christine Seelhofer from Switzerland, her and her family are returning home at the end of February and we will really miss them here in Zambia, she helped establish a nutrition center at the St Luke Catholic hospital in Mpanshya and their 3-year contract is coming to its end – we certainly hope they will join us somewhere in the future.

In the picture on the right you can see a now familiar sight with the traditional well, here discussing the irrigation potential and long term vision of the Chief for this particular area. After this we went for a short drive to a permanent stream just around the hill from his homestead, this will be better suited for irrigation as one can pump up from the stream and channel it to the village.

Growing Moringa is our second love, growing capacity is our first love. There is just too much potential in rural communities for the world to ignore, and if they do, it will be to the detriment of the whole of the human race. Rural communities are where expansion lies to  the consumer model and to the economic models that will see the world rising out of the ashes of a broken financial system, and this does not have to be long term, it is sad that we are looking already at 2020 as a new point of measure for the MDG instead of seeing 2015 as the challenge and the date of at least the implementation of systems that will see it manifested.

The third field is for the Catholic hospital as part of their own sustainability drive, the services that these Catholic Nuns from Poland are bringing to the community of Mpanshya is crucial to the community, and they are as dependent on funding as  most organizations are. IRDI is happy in having the opportunity and resources to help them with a sustainable fund creation project that will see them establish some funding to carry on with the great selfless work they are doing for the village. This will be the first of a couple of fields we hope to do for them, with another earmarked in another village about a hours drive from Mpanshya towards Chipata where they are establishing another community support program. The nuns are really doing a wonderful thing here in Zambia, we wish them luck with all they are planning and are looking forward to walking the road with them. This field will also see its first Moringa’s in the ground by Friday.

The children really enjoyed the village and as always, the boys found things to do, to the anxiety of their mothers and delight from the fathers. A special thanks to the Seelhofer family for hosting us and for the best homemade bread ever!




Last but not least a picture of a medium size Moringa tree which was allowed to grow naturally without being trimmed, a beautiful sight indeed. To all our followers, supporters, donors and sponsors, the people that help spread the message of what we do here in Zambia, the warmest thanks. Till next time keep your feet on the ground and reach for the stars!

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