Sari and I arrived on Monday night back in Israel. With the New Year (Rosh haShana), we are beginning to unpack and process the past 9 months, as well as looking forward to a new member of the family due in November, and direction for the coming year.
Since the last update, many new challenges as well as exciting developments have taken place. For one, many of the pepper plants that we lost to the frost have actually re-germinated, and are doing quite well in the field. Through the painful process of watching the peppers die, we have seen how important it is to believe with the community despite setbacks, and to never give up. We continue to believe that even as we are leaving, the project will continue to take root not only in the soil, but also in the hearts of those who are involved. The church members, who have partnered with us in many ways, encouraged us when we wanted to give up. One pastor from Zimba, a nearby town, led a prayer for the garden with the church:
“Your word, my Father God, you said in your word,” in ALL these things we are more than conquerors.” The Bible says, “in All these things.” In every problem, in every situation, your word says, “in All these things.” So thank you my Father God in the name of Jesus for the seeds, and therefore, we thank you that you are the God of weather, you are the God of seasons, and we thank you that remain the same, and your word remains the same. You are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and we thank you for that weather, but still my Father God, you revive things, you bring things new…So therefore now, in the name of Jesus Christ, you who lives in us, Father we pray that Lord you revive, you revive, you make those seeds germinate once more in the name of Jesus Christ, the one who died and rose again.”
By seeing their faith, our faith was encouraged.
I have spent most of the time choosing and training local project leaders to take over the work. The main job titles are:
1) Project Supervisor
2) BioSand Filter Construction Team (2)
3) Well Driller
4) Garden Managers (3)
5) Agricultural Supervisor
6) Night Watchmen (2)
As I write, these staff members are operating every aspect of the project, and sending me weekly updates.
Despite the support of such a large staff, I would say 4 main challenges remain:
1) It has been difficult to find faithful workers to come to the garden, as it requires more commitments for full cost recovery, and it is a very small church membership. We have invited other non-church members to join, and it appears that there is certainly enthusiasm for the program not far from home. More importantly however, the vision of empowerment is not easily grasped, especially in a culture normalized to aid through even generations of the “charity mindset” that reaches almost every sector of the community, from cattle dipping tanks to water services. It is hard for individuals to work toward a common good unless there is some specific reward for them. That is why I am promoting household water improvements within the financing structure for the community gardens – people can choose to work for a treadle pump, a water filter or a hand-drilled well while at the same time generating revenue to pay for a new or improved COMMUNITY water source.
2) Despite being paid in April, Zesco, the electricity utility, still has not installed power to the Sibunimba Village garden, causing us to rely on a diesel generator which costs $100 in fuel per week for watering the garden.
3) While many of the peppers survived, many did not, so we replanted those empty spaces with various tomato varieties.
Also in Sibunimba and Simakalanga, we have planted various vegetables including:
Squash, Beetroot, Peppers, Tomatos, Cabbage, Onion
4) Connecting with the markets in order to sell these vegetables, generate revenue, and pay back these water investments has been slow. Like any start-up business, the first stage is exploratory and often the riskiest. We are investigating every market possible including both hotels and agricultural cooperatives.
This has been a tremendous learning experience for myself, as well as for others involved. At this point, I am not sure if or when I will be going back to Zambia. It largely depends on the academic requirements and schedule as I finish the PhD by October 2012. But the project will continue to grow. As time goes by, I see this project less as a research program, and more as a start-up, socially-minded business model. As such, I can appeal more to investors than to philanthropists, and hope to see this eventually grow into a regional tool for development and both community and household empowerment. But the fledgling program needs more support, especially now that I have left, and due to the above challenges.
Please consider how you could help invest in these communities. The project needs to raise another $10,000 by December in order to bridge the gap between operation costs and the slowly growing revenue. I believe that as the gardens grow and households begin to improve their lives, more and more members of the communities will catch the vision.