With less than 2 days left in Zambia, I’ve been spending some time reflecting on my experiences here and kind of getting the feeling that it hasn’t been as fulfilling as I perhaps thought it would be. That perhaps I’ve been a “Failure”. I guess from stories I've heard from other volunteers, I was expecting to be thrown into a completely unfamiliar world and face all sorts of huge challenges dealing with culture, different food, and lack of comforts, people, languages and physical and homesickness. But in reality, I really haven’t found much of that, and when I compare myself with other volunteers, which I really try not to do, I’ve been coming out feeling a bit of a failure, because I haven’t had those “culture shock” experiences.

Maybe it’s because I’ve spent some time in India, so I’ve got a little experience being in a developing nation. Zambia and India, in a general sense are very similar places. Perhaps it’s because I’m based in Lusaka, the big city, where mostly everyone speaks English and the Indian boy about town, really isn’t all that strange and I don’t get harassed too often with calls of Muzungu (Nyanja for White person or more generally a foreigner) or Mwenya (Nyanja for Indian, my spelling of it might be off for those who might notice). I really don’t stand out in a crowd. Whatever the reason, the fact remains is that I’m really quite comfortable being here (not 100%, I’m still quite cautious when it comes to my personal safety, but then again, most Lusakans are as well). Maybe I just adapted really well, or maybe it’s just not all that different or maybe I’m just fooling myself.

I haven’t really felt home sick at all since getting here. Perhaps it’s because I partially have the attitude which is best summed up in the lyrics of one of my favorite songs: “...Where I lay my head is home....” (Can you name the song and artist?). But that is not to say that I don’t see my apartment in London as home, or I don’t consider my Parents house my home in some way. Actually when I really look at it, there are a lot of places that feel like a home to me, that feeling really at home here isn’t all that strange. Add to it a super nice host Mom, who is almost as good as the real thing (Mom, no one could ever replace you!) and really, what do I have to miss. The food we eat, I’ll admit is different from what I usually eat, but isn’t wild and crazy. I haven’t eaten caterpillars or rats or grasshoppers. No, I usually eat chicken, beef, or sausage along with cabbage, kale, beans and the staple Nshima. Some might consider the fact they have to eat with their hands and not use utensils to be a new experience, but I’m Indian, we eat with our hands all the time, so it’s really not a big deal!

I’ve spent most of my days here in the city, so I haven’t had those typical rural African experiences of sleeping in a thatch hut, following a farmer out to his fields, or using a latrine in the dark (although the light in the washroom was broken from before I got here to just about three weeks ago). No, I’ve slept most nights in a nice house made of concrete, on a foam mattress. The bathroom, while lacking a sink, is indoors and has a fully functioning toilette and shower (albeit cold water only). I’ve visited farmers and villagers and seen their crops and villages, but I didn’t work their fields with them, or shell maize or fetch water. Do I need to physically do it to have an appreciation for it? I don’t know. In fact I’ve worn my “in the city” UES baseball cap, more than my “in the field” Tilly Hat.

I really haven’t had the typical cultural experiences that one would expect a volunteer to have in Zambia. I haven’t been to any celebrations with drumming and dancing (except the JF retreat where I was the one drumming and other ewb volunteers were the ones dancing). I haven’t been given any gifts from any village headmen (I was given a bag of oranges from a orange farmer though). What I have seen are many nightclubs and bars (from the outside) with lots of people enjoying the local brews. I’ve seen people going to the local cinemas to enjoy the latest movies (American, Nigerian and from elsewhere). I see people packing into mini-busses and walking on the streets as they make their way to and from work, or shopping. I’ve seen life in the city. Is that any less valid of an experience than seeing life in a village? I don’t think so. There’s no denying the fact that a huge percentage of population on this continent lives in the big cities of Africa like Lusaka. There is no denying the urban poverty that exists here, which is often harder to deal with than the rural poverty. My project wasn’t anything to do with urban poverty, but perhaps that’s an area that needs to have some focus, because things are just as bad, if not worse in the cities than in the villages.

In the end though, I don’t think I’m a failure. I’ve had an experience, a much different experience than a lot of EWB volunteers. I’ve worked on a project and completed what I was supposed to do and a little bit more. I’ve learned a lot, and I can only hope that what I’ve done actually makes a difference down the line. This has been my experience and I don’t regret any of it!

Ricky Patel


Dr. Livingstone I presume?!

With about two weeks left in Zambia, I'm finally heading down to Livingstone/Sesheke to see the Mungongo nut collectors.  I'll be spending about a week there, collecting some info and seeing what things are like there.  I'll also be meeting up with the other JF's for some fun in Livingstone as well as seeing Victoria Falls and the other sights.  I'll return to Lusaka with a few days left to finish my reports and other work before getting on the plane back to Canada. 

The Mongongo cracker is close to being complete, all that's left is some minor alterations/modifications to enhance it's performance and then probably some grinding of the welds and a fresh coat of paint.

Ricky Patel


Questions Answered...

See the comments on my "I love the smell...." post for the questions....

Animals could be used to perform the cold pressing.  In India they use a ghani, which is basically a giant mortar and pestle which is powered by animals.  However it's not really used here in Zambia.  The problems with animals is they can be expensive to keep, and so you'll see that only better off farmers will use animal power, while the poorer ones will still work by hand, most small scale oil cold pressing (for mungongo and other oil seed) is done by hand.  There are also two types of hydraulic cold pressers being used that I'm aware of.  One is basically a hydraulic bottle jack in the place of the screw in the manual presser, the other uses a hydraulic cylinder powered by a hydraulic power unit (electric).

As it stands now, the project is leaning towards using the cracker on a commercial scale.  The assistance to rural people will come from the income they can receive by selling their collected nuts before or after cracking them.  That is not to say that the cracked nuts can't be pressed by individuals for their own benefit, but the goal of this project is the commercialization for the oil.  Currently the industry is basically individuals producing oil for personal use, local markets, or small quantity export.

Electricity may or may not be available in all villages, therefore this machine is powered by a hand crank, with the option open that a pulley put on the shaft to power it via electric motor or a diesel engine.

The nut is available in huge quantities I am told, as there are entire forests of the tree... and since nothing eats the nuts, it won't be taking a food source away from any animals (just might have to let the elephants eat the fruit first).  Part of the project will be ensuring that collection is done in a sustainable manner, meaning that enough nuts are left on the ground to form the next generation of trees etc.

I think I answered all of them

The Competition

Every morning a competition is held in the house where I stay in Libala. The battle is between Zambian Mother and Canadian Son and is all over a simple pot of water. Now you may ask: what is there to compete over in a pot of water? Well let me tell you my friend, there is plenty. This is not a material battle, but a battle of principle. Allow me to explain.

Rose or Mommy, my Zambian mother, insists that I take a bath every morning before going off to work. I don't argue, as I do like the "fresh and clean" feeling a morning bath offers when going to work or school. As I've mentioned before, in order to take a bath, water must be warmed on the stove, for the tap water is much to cold, and the mornings quite frigid for a straight shower. So to have a bath at around 0620, the water must begin heating by 0600 at the latest. This is where the competition begins.

For my first week here, I wasn't used to the routine, and Mommy would anticipate my waking up and put on the water accordingly. It was really appreciated. Very quickly I was able to judge what time I needed to wake up at to put water on myself. I felt bad that Mommy would get up early and put water on for me, when I am perfectly capable of putting the water on myself. So for a few days, I would get up about half an hour early and put my own water on. Well, it seems as if Mommy would have nothing of the sort, and was determined to get up before I, and put water on for me. So with no other option, I start to get up a little earlier than her. That is until she started to get up around 0430 to put water on. That is when I had to say something. See up until this point, a single word about this competition had not been uttered in the house. I began to tell her that I had noticed that she had gotten up very early, and that she didn't have to. This was the day a truce was reached, albeit a temporary truce.

We came to a compromise, which allowed her to still feel like she was doing something for me, while I wasn't left feeling guilty about her getting up so early (especially on the really cold mornings). The arrangement that was reached was that Mommy would fill the pot with water and place it on the stove, the night before. In the morning, all that I would have to do was switch it on at an appropriate time.

This arrangement worked, and the truce stood for almost a month, until last week, when the truce was broken. Mommy, has broken the agreement, and begun to wake up early and switch on the stove, after she has put the water in the pot, on the stove the night before. This morning I was scared half to death, when I opened my bedroom door, to look into the kitchen and see Mommy's silhouette in the dark standing at the stove. I had not heard her get up, usually I do. So I am almost back where I started, in an endless struggle to warm bathwater.

Ricky Patel


I love the smell of welding smoke in the morning...

That o-zone, molten metal smell.....smells like.... progress!

One thing I’ve noticed, is that welding smoke smells the same in Canada as it does in Zambia, but then I don’t know why it would smell any different. It reminds me of the summer I spent working at an engineering firm in Hamilton and the smoke from the welding would waft into the office from the shop below.

I’ve been spending a lot of time overseeing and helping with the construction of the prototype Mongongo (or Manketti) Nut Cracking machine. I’ll give you a quick overview of the project.

Mongongo is a native nut to this region of Southern Africa. The nut, which is collected from the wild, as well as the oil, is high in vitamin E. The shell is very hard and quite difficult to crack. Elephants love to eat the Mongongo fruit, and the nuts pass through their digestive systems completely unscathed. Traditionally the nut was cracked by smashing it between two rocks. Now this is a very slow process, which is not suitable for commercial production of oil. It was necessary to develop a machine capable of cracking this very hard nut.

The focus for ASNAPP currently is developing the cracking technology, which will help to develop the industry of Mongongo oil production (which will give rural peoples to earn income from collecting wild nuts) which is where I come in as an Engineers without Borders volunteer. I’m using some of the “engineering skills” I have learned both at Centennial College studying Automation and Robotics and at Western studying Integrated Engineering to assist in the development of this machine and also using some of the ideas and concepts of sustainable development and appropriate technologies that I’ve learned in my time/training with EWB to try to ensure that this machine is created in manner that it will be able to be produced and used effectively considering the resources/abilities available in Zambia, and in the communities where it will eventually work. The latter being quite difficult, as I don’t know what resources or abilities are in the communities where this machine will be used. But hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll be finding out. I know, a little late in the process to be doing it, but better late than never.


It's Showtime!!

The show grounds is a flurry of activity. The dirt is being swept up, paint is being applied and all is being made ready. Yes, it’s time for the Zambia Agriculture and Commercial Show! In a few short days, Lusaka city will empty as the entire population converges on the show grounds to see the displays, the cultural shows, taste the food and have fun! (ok maybe not the entire city)

I took a break from the Mongongo Cracker friday to take a quick trip to the show grounds with Peter, an ASNAPP Staff member and the man who shares his desk with me. We went to check out the preparations being made on the ASNAPP stand in the Organic and Natural Products Pavilion. Work is progressing, and things should be ready by the time the show opens August 3rd. ASNAPP will be exhibiting some of the natural products it is directly promoting, as well as providing a venue for some of the partner natural product producers under ANSAPP’s umbrella, including some farmers/women’s groups.

I’m not sure why, but I’m really excited about the show. I don’t know what I will be doing at the show as far as the ASNAPP stand is concerned but I’m pretty sure that I will be involved in some form, possibly being an ASNAPP rep at the stand as I have learned a fair bit about ASNAPP programs and can talk to people about them. However I still have a Mongongo Cracker to complete and test, and I do still want to get some serious field time in before time runs out. (Which it seems to be doing rather quickly).

I’m going to try and update my blog a bit more frequently over the last month of my placement, so keep an eye open. Leave me some comments so I know who’s reading this, and if you have any questions let me know!


Please Sir....

“Please sir, one hundred Kwacha? So hungry, no food, please sir!”

Almost everyday in my travels through Lusaka, I no doubt pass at least one child, who asks me for money. Most of the time they’re just down the street at the main intersection of Kubulonga, or Kubulonga Robots as they are referred to (robots being a slang term used here for traffic lights). Kubulonga, the area where my office is located, is quite an upscale portion of Lusaka. Quite a stark contrast too most other places in the city. Yet, despite the affluence, there are still street children in this area. Not surprising, as there really is no great physical divide here between rich and poor. Not like in North America, where in rich neighborhoods you see no evidence of poverty what so ever. Here, Rich and Poor live along side each other. The rich seemingly are almost completely oblivious to the existence of the poor though.

As I pass by these kids, I have this great moral dilemma. What do I do? I know I have a hundred Kwacha in my pocket, and it really isn’t a lot of money (about 3 cents), I could give it and make this kid happy perhaps. I don’t know what he’d use it for, maybe he’s genuine and buy food, maybe not and buy something else. I don’t know! And what about the precedent it sets? I surly cannot afford to give money to every child in this city, let alone country who asks me for it, how can I choose one child over another? People argue that giving child beggars money only encourages illiteracy. If that child wasn’t begging, they mean to say, he’d be in school. But how can he be in school if he cannot afford the school fees. What can I do?

Time and time again, I just walk by these children, most of the time not even acknowledging their presence, but sometimes giving them the shake of the head to say no. I feel like a jerk doing it, but what can I do? I can throw out explanations of begging not being a sustainable income, and it’s better for them to go to school, but in the end what good will it do? Will it discourage the child from begging if that is his only means of survival in this city? What does the kid do at my refusal? Nothing, just moves on to ask the next person.

The adults are worse, they’ll actually yell at me when I refuse, times I’m glad I don’t speak Nyanja, Tonga, Bemba or any of the other Zambian languages.

Some Pictures

Sacks of Wild harvested Fadogia tea stacked in the ASNAPP backyard. This is usually where I eat my lunch of Sausage Rolls, that is when I'm not out at Mr. Mukasa's Shop or elsewhere in the field.

View of Mr. Mukasa's busy shopyard. In the foreground, construction of the cracking machine is progressing, and in the background, some Mongongo Oil is being Expelled using a simple Cold Press technique.

Some of the various machined parts produced for the Cracking machine. Pictured is the Eccentric Shaft, Bearing Blocks, Hubs with Brass Bushings, and the base
of the cracking jaws, made from old railway tracks.Posted by Picasa


Dirty Hands

[Check the bottom of this post for some new pics posted 07/26/06]

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a Westerner, or because I’m regarded as an engineer, or because I wear clean dress shirts (most of the time, remember, I do my own laundry in a tub by hand in the backyard, which means I use wardrobe conservation techniques), but since the day I started work, I’ve been prevented from helping out with some of the physical tasks that are required in the day to day operations of ASNAPP. But despite this resistance I’ve faced, I’ve managed to show my co-workers that just because I’m a Westerner/Engineer I can get my hands dirty and pitch in when help is needed, whether it be unloading a truck full of wild harvested tea, to loading a truck with a motorcycle or rolls of wire fencing. This is the background story to how I got grease on my shirt.

Last week, we were in the process of finding/buying materials and outsourcing some of the machining work required for the Mongongo Nut cracking machine. All the machining work (turning of an eccentric shaft, various hubs and bushings) was done at Lusaka’s Industrial Training Center (ITC), which is an institute teaching students various trade skills, including machining, computer systems, automotive repairs and also takes on machining jobs to supplement it’s income. ITC was able to source most of the materials for the parts they were making except for a cylinder of steel at least 120mm in diameter, so I set off with Mr. Mukasa, the entrepreneur whose design/concept is the basis of the machine and is building the machine, to find this material in Lusaka. Now normally perhaps in Canada, that wouldn’t be such a hard task, as there are many steel suppliers with stocks full of various sizes of steel. But here in Zambia, it’s a bit of a problem, as supply is low, as with demand. This puts a bit of a constraint on the appropriateness of this machine, and will be examined at a later stage, right now we’re just trying to get something that works. So we went to one of Mr. Mukasa’s contacts, and luckily enough, the material we were looking for was right at the front door. It was purchased and I was sent to drop it off at ITC to get the machining done. As soon as we get to ITC I wanting to show that I can do some work, jump out of the truck and go to grab the 40kg cylinder of mild steel. I’m sure I would have managed but it was covered in grease, and subsequently slipped out of my hands and the grease got on my shirt. Mr. Bryson, one of our friendly ASNAPP drivers, told me to get out of the way, and got some rags and picked up and took it inside.

So that’s the grease story, and you know what, it made me really happy. I enjoy getting my hands on a project and that was really the first instance when I felt like I really had gotten my hands on the project, because my hands got dirty, as well as my shirt. It’s a feeling hard to explain. It’s like a football (I have been forced to stop calling it soccer) player never getting a grass stain on his uniform, or a Chef never getting sauce on his apron. To me, I wouldn’t feel like I’m being an engineer without getting my hands dirty. I’m sure that there are many engineers out there that will disagree, but that is my opinion. Either way, the moment was a pivotal one as it meant that I was making forward progress on my project. Up until that moment, I hadn’t felt like I had done much (as evidenced by lack of information regarding my “real work” on my blog). But to see that I had taken this project from a state of being just a sketch on a drawing board with no real chance of being made the day I walked into Mr. Mukasa’s office, to a stage where the prototype was being constructed, with all the NGO red tape and funding issues that go hand in hand with this world (NGO world) made me start feeling like I’ve been accomplishing something while here.

I’m sure you’re wondering what this machine is going to do and what it has to do with reducing poverty in Zambia, and I will perhaps give you a quick run down in my next installment with hopefully some early test results.

Until then, I leave you with a picture of my new friend (Left. The one on the right belongs to David Damberger, I was just drum sitting). I got her in Kafue, on the way down to the Junior Fellow retreat held Canada day long weekend (also a long weekend here in Zambia, Hero’s Day and Unity Day on the 3rd and 4th respectively) in Siavonga, on the beautiful Lake Kariba. Here’s a picture of Kathleen (EWB long term OV – center), Courtney (EWB JF –right) and yours truly, enjoying the scenery, while sitting on a rocky point. (Don’t worry, the beard is mostly shaved off, I look respectable).


grease lightning!

I got grease on my shirt today.  While it may not seem like a huge deal (unless you're doing my laundry, which by the way I do in a tub in the back yard), it is, as it means that we're out of the planning stage of the Mungongo nut cracking machine..and onto the prototyping stage.... I'll explain more later....stay tuned!


Church Gossip

Last weekend when my Zambian mother told me her church section was coming over Wednesday night for a bible study, my first thought was: “What can I do away from home Wednesday night?”  But then she told me that I was welcome to be there, and even encouraged me to attend, (and give an offering when the plate went around!).  So, in the spirit of having new experiences, I decided to have an open mind about the bible study session and attend.  By the time I got home from work, there were already a few men and women from the church section seated in the living room. I took a seat on the sofa next to the other few men who greeted me with handshakes (Zambian handshakes that is).  Soon after I had been seated, more people came to the door and then more people such that the tiny house I stay in, was now filled with about 30 people.  The living room was full, and some people were forced to sit in the kitchen. 


The evening began off with the singing of hymns.  Regularly, I would perhaps cringe a bit at the singing of hymns (having actually been to Church a couple of times during Church Parades with the Legion in Tillsonburg when I was an Air Cadet). I remember the singing of hymns to be boring and spiritless.  But the hymns sung that evening were beautifully sung, full of spirit and passion.  Each member of the section knew his or her part/harmony.  The hymns were all sung in Nyanja, which only enhanced their beauty (much like opera sung in Italian, French or German sounds so much nicer than ones sang in English).  The group almost sounded like a well-rehearsed choir.  It was amazing and quite the spiritual experience at a very basic level.  At one point during the hymns, the power went off, but the group continued singing and the power came back on (usually when the power goes off, it stays off for four or five hours), the power of Christ? Hmmmm, perhaps.


After the hymns were sang, came the time for the bible study portion of the evening.  I was handed a bible so that I could follow along.  I flipped to the book and found the chapter and verse they were reading and read along as one of the children who was there read aloud.  The theme of the evening’s readings and discussions was gossip and the sin that it is.  The discussion lasted for about half an hour; with most people agreeing that gossip is evil, and is a sin and all should stop gossiping.  I wonder how many of the people there have actually stopped, since here, as in many places around the world, gossip, it seems, is a pass time for young and old, men and women.  I’m sure that I perhaps was a spark of some gossip last night, as most of the attendees weren’t aware that I was staying there.  I asked my Zambian mother if she thought anyone had stopped gossiping after the session, and she was doubtful that anyone actually did.

The evening ended with some more hymns and everyone filing out while singing, into the cool moonlight night that had settled on the neighbourhood, where everyone wished each other farewell and went on their way home.


A Week with Dr. Juliani

The week of June 19th, ASNAPP-Zambia was playing host to Professor Rodolfo Juliani, from Rutgers State University, New Jersey, USA.  Dr. Juliani is a partner with ASNAPP in the US and oversees quality control and product development of ASNAPPs various natural products and conducts chemical analysis for ASNAPP on the products it is promoting.  Dr. Juliani was here specifically to evaluate a number of crop cluster, as well as work on development for mungongo and geranium products in the Lusaka area.  Also on his itinerary was a visit to Chipata to see some of the activities going on as part of the Chinyanja Triangle Project.


The Chinyanja Triangle project is a project involving the Eastern Province of Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.  The three areas form a triangle, and are named after the predominant language spoken in these three areas, Chinyanja.  The project incorporates fruit and vegetable growers, paprika growers and various agro-forestry programs.


The first place of visit on Dr. Juliani’s visit was the Shiyala Community School.  This school, near Chongwe, east of Lusaka, is mainly for orphan children.  Dr. Juliani visited this school on his last visit to Zambia.  On his return to the US, he made a presentation to his daughter’s nursery school, which were inspired to help these children, and sent along a number of books, as well as artwork for the children of the Shiyala School.  Dr. Juliani also laid the groundwork for additional cooperation between his daughter’s school and the Shiyala School in the future.  Shiyala also is the home of a group of women who are involved with an ASNAPP vegetable growers project, as well as the site of a Moringa and Lemongrass nursery.


Next we traveled to Arulusa Farms, North of Lusaka in the Chisamba area. Here we met with Peter Gatt.  Arulusa Farms is an essential oil producer. They produce oils from Tea Tree, geranium, lemon grass, among others.  The lemon grass oil is specifically made into soap and other products, which are sold locally along with some of their other products in the department store chain Shop-Rite.  A bulk of their oil produced is sold as export overseas.


On Tuesday, we departed for Chipata, which is about 500 km east of Lusaka, on the Eastern most edge of Zambia, on the Malawi Border.   The traveling group consisted of Dr. Juliani, Dr. Daka, Mr. Malumo, the Mr. Sakala, our driver and myself.  The trip took approximately 7 hours due to some poor road conditions.  Upon arrival at Chipata we met with Jones Chitondo, an ASNAPP-Zambia Staff member, who is in Chipata setting up a new field office there, as well with Eularia Zulu Syamujaye, who is with the Lutheran World Federation, and works in the Rural Community Development and Empowerment Program.


Wednesday Morning we set out for our first stop in a day of field visits.  We visited the Msekera Research Station and Agro-Forestry centre.  This station is a joint project between Government (Ministry of Agriculture) and ICRAF and is the site of some of ASNAPP’s paprika trials.  Here we met with Gillian Kabwe who is the site project manager with ICRAF and Dr. S Lungu.  The site is also conducting biomass transfer experiments, which involves using organic materials as fertilizers.


One particular organic material studied here is the Glicidia Sepium tree.  The leaves of this tree form an excellent natural fertilizer for soil.  It can be used to both revitalize depleted soils, as well as supplement productive soils.  The research conducted at this station involved establishment/propagation methods.  Methods studied were: polyethylene pots, bare root transplant, direct sowing and cuttings.


The experiments conducted found that the best and most economical method was the bare root transplant method.  The experiment has now progressed into a management stage, where different techniques are being studied in regards to managing a stand of trees and harvesting the leaves.  The Dry leaves which fall from the tree naturally can also be utilized, however the nutrient content is not as high, but it does exhibit a longer residual effect vs. green leaves.  The tree can be intercropped with Maize and has been shown to increase the yield of a maize field by up to 4 times.


From Msekera, we made a quick stop at Radio Maria, a catholic radio station so that Dr. Juliani, Dr. Daka and Mr. Malumo could provide a quick interview for a program, which highlights the activities/programs of NGO’s operating in the area.


Our Final destination was the village of Mugabe.  The village is located very close to the Zambia – Malawi Border.  Here we visited Jerry, a vegetable farmer.  Jerry is very fortunate as his farm is situated in what is called Dambos or wetlands.  Here the water table is very high, and often places at the surface.  Combine the easy water access with very fertile soil,  has allowed Jerry to establish a large and very productive farm.  He grows a large variety of fruits and vegetables.  


On Thursday we departed Chipata for Lusaka, and en route stopped in the village of Katete to visit a farmers co-operative who mainly produce citrus fruits.  HOTCOP (for Horticultural Cooperative) as the cooperative calls is self, incorporates a variety of levels of farmers, from the small-scale vulnerable farmer to the large-scale plantation farmers, which we visited this day.  This visit was almost a first contact visit for ASNAPP.  The main purpose was to make contact with the cooperative and lay some groundwork for ASNAPP assistance.  The main complaints that farmers in this area have is that they have a difficult time accessing inputs such as fertilizers, as well as accessing markets.  The closure of several processing plants in Zambia has lead to a decline in the market, and an increase in cost for transportation to any remaining processing plants.  Sales to the open market have declined in the face of stiff competition from imported citrus from South Africa and are not sufficient for the survival of all the farmers.  Water is not a major concern in this area, as it is situated at the foot of some large hills, which have many water springs, which can be, and are tapped for irrigation purposes.  ASNAPP’s proposed role in the assistance of this group of farmers will be to facilitate market linkages with processors around Zambia, and perhaps facilitate a local pre processing facility.


The final day with Dr. Juliani took us to the Nanga National Irrigation Research Station near Mazabuka.  The station was hosting a field day, whose theme was: “Sustainable Agricultural Growth through Irrigation Research and Development”.  On display were the various experiments and works that the research station is currently conducting, as well as various small-scale irrigation systems, which farmers can implement such as drip irrigation.  ASNAPP had a stand at the field day, in an area, which showcased some natural products and their uses as medicinal plants.  The main item on display at the ASNAPP stand was Morringa, which ASNAPP is actively promoting as “the Miracle Tree” for it’s wide variety of nutrients and uses.


The Farm in the wetlands was a very exciting thing to see, not only for myself but all the ANSAPP staff.  Jerry is a model farmer.  He tries various techniques suggested to him and adopts what works, and has established a successful farm.  With perhaps 36 million hectares of wetlands such as the ones Jerry’s farm is situated on, there is a great possibility for more productive farms such as Jerry’s.  However the productive farms do come at an expense.  Wetlands are an important part of an ecosystem, as they provide homes to many animals and plants, as well as an integral part of the water shed.  Converting natural wetlands into farm lands can cause major damage to a local ecosystem.  This is something that definitely must be studied before any promotion of agriculture on wetland areas is promoted, as the wetlands are a great resource, for possible agriculture, but also intact, in their natural state. 


Medicinal Plants Workshop

From June 12th to June 17th, I was at a Medicinal Plants workshop hosted by ASNAPP-Zambia.  The theme of the workshop specifically was “ Formulation of Sustainable and Quality Standard Natural Medicinal Plant Products”.  This workshop falls in with ANSAPP’s involvement in the Partnership for Food Industry Development in Natural Products (PFID/NP).  Professor Mazuru Gundiza from the University of South Africa facilitated the workshop.  Prof. Gundiza is a chemist by training, and an expert on natural medicinal plants and medicines. 


ANSAPP served as the host for the workshop, which was held at the Barn Motel, about 20 km east of Lusaka.  All staff from ASNAPP was involved with the workshop in some form, and most was also participating in the workshop.  My role was to take note of any discussions and/or questions that would arise during sessions that wasn’t covered in the prepared course manual.


During the workshop, Participants learned various techniques of processing plant material into various products, specifically: Capsules, Creams, Tinctures, Ointments, Lotions, Salves, Decoctions, Inhalations, Infusions and Herbal teas.  Also presented was an outline for a business plan such that participants could leave the workshop primed to start their own business.


The workshop covered a large amount of information, however, I felt that much of it wasn’t presented in enough detail.  The procedures for preparing some of the products are somewhat complex, and require more time to learn properly.  The workshop, I felt was more of a stepping stone to allow would be entrepreneurs a place to start from to produce products from natural plants.  However if a person were to seriously wish to create a business, they would be required to do further research and practice into the techniques presented.


I was in a unique position as I was able to take a “fly on the wall” place during the sessions.  This was valuable as it allowed me to observe the proceedings and people.  One aspect of people that I was observing was their attitudes specifically towards natural products.  There were a number of people there who had already made natural products a business and were making money from it, and it seemed were there mainly to promote their own businesses and products.  There were also those who genuinely believed in the “power” of natural medicines and really wanted to bring them to people who really needed them.  Also present were those who wanted just to learn for themselves, and did not really intend to go into business, but rather just produce products for themselves.  Out of all the attitudes I found the first, “Make Money” attitude the most disturbing, as none of the people seemed to have any plan, or desire to make these medicines available to those who desperately need them.  An argument made against this was that these are natural remedies, that people are free to use, if they can’t use them on their own, and need help, then they will have to pay for it.  But the problem is the knowledge of these remedies is not as widespread as it may have been in previous generations.  With conventional medicines being the mainstay of medical treatment, and natural medicines being rejected by doctors and clergy for many years as “witchcraft”. The teaching of these techniques ceased and has died with the older generations.  So there is need to re-learn these techniques and remedies.  However these business people seem to have no desire to teach, just to sell.


Hope is not lost though.  As ASNAPP and many at the workshop have a clear vision about natural products and their promotion, including the establishment of a “college of natural medicine” which would provide accessible education about natural remedies, along with work to re-integrate natural remedies into the mainstream healthcare of Zambia.  To this end, the Natural Products Association of Zambia was formed at the end of the workshop.  Although still requiring official registration, the association will begin the process of networking individuals and organizations that are dealing with natural products, so that they may all work together to further natural products.

I found the formation of the association to be very inspiring.  It is always fantastic to see a group of people come together towards a common goal, especially something so basic and natural as natural medicines/products.  I do have a bit of scepticism about whether or not it will succeed, as the differing attitudes I mentioned earlier, will create an interesting dynamic in the governance of the association, which will ultimately set its direction.  However with ASNAPP in a key role in this association, there is some assurance that there will always be a voice for the more altruistic possibilities of natural products.


(sorry, no pictures worth posting for this one, I'll show you when I get back)


Next entry will be about a week spent with an Argentinean Doctor from New Jersey and our trip to Chipata.         


More on Daily Life and other stuff

So I've had some requests for some more about my experiences and what's going on with me. Here's the Questions:
  • What is my host family like? Well I'm living with an elderly widow named Rose. She is called Mommy by everyone. A number of previous EWB volunteers have stayed here at some point. I was set up here by Mike Quinn, who was the first, and is currently a Long term EWB volunteer based out of Livingston. Rose is really nice, and lives up to her nickname. It has been really easy to settle in here. So it's just the two of us living in a two bedroom house. There are times when it gets kinda boring with no one else around, but the rest of the time I really appreciate the quiet and the space I have to just decompress after a long day. Rose's Son, lives near by with his wife and two small children. They usually drop by for a visit in the evenings and the kids usually find me entertaining.
  • How is the food? Well the first week I spent living in this house, I didn't eat much. My diet was bread and jam. I fell ill my first day here. The usual travelers diareah complicated with Fever. But slowly I've been getting used to eating Nshima and vegetables and meat/chicken. The food is alright. I wouldn't say it's really good, nor would I say it's really bad. It tastes a little bland at times, but I'm used to food with some serious spice. Luckily there are some really decent chilli peppers that are available here that add some flavour to any dish.
  • How am I dealing with the bucket shower? I'm dealing well. At first it was really awkward but I'm getting used to it. The house doesn't have a bathtub, but rather a shower stall. Now you ask, why I don't take a shower when there's a shower stall. Well because there's no hot water, and in the mornings the tap water is usually pretty cold. So the only option is to boil water on the stove, and mix into a bucket of cold water for a perfect bathing blend.
  • How am I dealing with the commute? I'm dealing! The walk to work, which takes me about an hour, has begun to feel like nothing. I find myself spacing out a bit while walking and not realizing how far I've gone, and surprising myself when I reach a turning point or landmark. The return trip home is becoming equally routine. The minibus to Kulima Towers bus station, the connection back out to my neighbourhood, I don't think about it much anymore, it's become routine.
  • Is Paprika a Pepper and is it eaten fresh off the plant? Paprika is a pepper. But I don't think anyone eats it fresh off the plant. Some may, but the bulk of the paprika is either dried and crushed for sale as a spice, or processed for its oil, which becomes an ingredient in various things such as medicines.
  • Background of ANSAPP staff: The staff do not come from any particular cultural background. I think most of them do have farming roots as well as formal educations in some aspect of agriculture.
The past two weeks have been really busy for me. I've spent a lot of time out of the office at various field sites and trainings. I will be writing up some reports on those as well as some updates on the Mungongo nut project soon, so stay tuned!


Field Visit # 2 – Paprika Farmers, Chisamba District 06/08/06

The purpose of this visit was to meet with paprika farmers to see how their paprika harvest was progressing, as well as deliver some woven polyethylene sacks in which the graded paprika is to be packaged for transport to the processing facility.

In this area, the paprika harvest is in full swing. They suspect the crop to be completely harvested and ready to ship within a few weeks. There were no complaints here about the weather etc. Here the crop yield is high.

This area is home to the Chipembi Farm College. This is an agricultural college run by the Anglican Church to teach farmers proper farming techniques. Here students, who have just gradated high school, undergo classroom instruction as well as practical field work, with a large field area, complete with irrigation, for students to plant and maintain their own crops. The crops the students grow are sold to help with costs. The paprika seedling nursery for the local community was established at the college because of the excellent irrigation facilities present. Once the seedlings were ready they were transplanted to individual farmers fields. At the college we met with Mr. Namasumo, who is the head of production and a lecturer. He showed us the current paprika crop, the drying stands used to dry the paprika, as well as the graded bales they have already produced.

Paprika starts life off as a seed in a highly controlled nursery, where it is allowed to germinate and grow into a seedling. In the nursery, the seedlings are taken through a hardening process to ensure their survival upon transplanting. When the seedlings have reached a specified size, they are transplanted to the growing fields. In this case the nursery was established by a farmers co-operative, who then shared in the seedlings, and will then sell all their harvested paprika through ASNAPP to the processor.

Once the seedling is transplanted, it will take about 8-9 weeks before the first flowers appear. From the time the first flowers appear, it will take about 3-4 months before each flower becomes a pod, and the pod is ready to be picked. Picked pods are then dried before baling. The preferred method of drying is on elevated drying stands which allow for the paprika to evenly dry, and remain relatively free of contamination from animals. Most farmers in this area, since it is their first time growing Paprika, have yet to invest in the drying stands, and thus have opted to dry their Paprika on the ground.

The paprika plant will continue flowering at 2-4 week intervals depending on the sunlight, moisture available and disease rate (disease may cause the plant to become dormant). The variety being grown here is Papri-King, which is an open pollinated variety and tends to be quite disease resistant, although not immune, it responds very well and quickly to chemicals to treat any disease.

The Paprika grown by this co-op is bound for a processing plant, here, in Zambia (which hopefully I’ll be visiting in the near future), which will process the paprika and extract the oil, rather than into a dry spice.

This was a very fast visit, but it showed me how things are generally supposed to work. Although not 100%, The farmers here are doing a really good job with their paprika. The bulk of the crop is of Grade A or B. The only real criticisms was the techniques they were using to dry the paprika and the fact that some of the farmers had tended to neglect their fields once the harvest began, allowing an overgrowth of weeds. But overall, the results shown in this area are very encouraging, which means farmers will be willing to grow paprika again next season.


Field Visit # 1 – Chanyanya, Kafue District.

Paprika – Training on Harvesting and Quality Control

On May 31st. I had the opportunity to make my first field visit. I traveled with an Extension Officer from ASNAPP-Zambia to the village of Chanyanya on the banks of the Kafue River. There we met with representatives from two farmers groups who are engaged in the cultivation of Paprika, The Chanyanya Farmers group, which has 61 members, and the Katuya Cumbele Women’s Group (Which roughly translates to “Lets Go!” Women’s Group, I am told), with 12 members.

Chanyanya, is on the banks of the Kafue River, roughly 70 km south of Lusaka near the town of Kafue. The river is a great resource of fish, and is the village’s main industry, and the source of many of it’s problems. Many youth, flock to the fishing boats instead of going to school. Either they can’t afford school, or they want to make a buck fishing. This is leads to a very high illiteracy rate. The fishing industry also brings in many outsiders who wish to buy and sell their fish. Most of the market selling is done by women, who I am told also sell themselves along side their fish to visiting fishermen and fish merchants. This prostitution has lead to a very high rate of HIV/AIDS in the area. Efforts are being made to encourage agriculture, and further, the cultivation of certain cash crops along side staple crops, like Paprika, to enable the people of the area to increase their income from agriculture, and become less dependant on fishing.

The purpose of this visit was to gauge how the farmers who had joined onto the paprika program were doing as we are in the midst of the harvest season, giver a refresher on when to harvest the paprika and how to grade, and too see who has started planning/preparations for the next planting before the next rainy season begins. (October/November).

The session was a participatory session, which enabled the farmers to voice their concerns, as well as learn from one another about best practices. Some of the major problems that limited the paprika production from this past year were initially a lack of water to start seedlings, and then when the rains did come, too much rain. Since Chanyanya is on the Kafue Rivers flood plains, the soil is quick to become water logged, which lead to flooded fields and drowned seedlings. Some other problems were also identified, which seemed to stem from farmer negligence.

Also assessed was the number of farmers who were planning on growing paprika again in the next season, and more specifically who were planning on growing irrigated paprika (irrigated through the use of a treadle pump). Currently 11 farmers in the area have treadle pumps through this paprika project. Most of them still have not paid for their pumps, as there was a payment arrangement that was dependant on the paprika crop. However since the crop has failed in the area for two years running, the payments were never made.

Some conclusions that were drawn from the discussions were that the farmers are still not taking Paprika serious as a crop but are willing to try it out. Which is very understandable, as they can’t feed their families with paprika. They are also using the treadle pumps for cultivation of other vegetable crops, and neglecting the paprika. This was not an encouraging finding. Farmers were asked to show their commitment to Paprika, by starting the preparations of their seedling nurseries, or their treadle pumps will be redistributed, as there are other areas where farmers are successfully growing paprika, and require treadle pumps. A follow up visit was scheduled in a couple weeks time to see what progress has been made.

ASNAPP is pushing the growing of paprika, because there is a market for it, and prices are very good, especially when compared to the maize or cotton (the other crops the other crops grown for market in the area). Growing Paprika as their main crop, and maize as their secondary crop (only enough for their own consumption) would mean increased income for the farmers leading to all around well being.

For me, this was a very fascinating experience. During training, we spent a lot of time doing case studies where we examined and practised participatory techniques. I was able to see the techniques in action, and also see some of the real problems that come out during these sorts of sessions. I did not actively participate in the session, I was able to sit and observe aided by the local Community Development Officer for interpretation/translation.

One thing that I found surprising, is that the farmers were so quick to try to find someone else or something to blame for the failure of their crop,(like the lead farmer for not teaching them, too much rain, too little rain, ASNAPP for not monitoring) rather than try and take some responsibility for themselves (insufficient weeding, not buying fertilizer, not controlling pests, contact farmers not reporting to ASNAPP). I always thought that trying to transfer blame for failure was a Western attitude, but I guess it’s pretty universal. I should also add that I had a very limited view of this village as it was my first time there, and I only spent a few hours there. I hope to return to this village to what else is going on there apart from the illiteracy, HIV/AIDS, and failing paprika, hopefully something positive.


Daily Life

Daily life here in Lusaka for me isn't much different from daily life back home. I get up, go to work, come home, eat sleep. Sounds fun doesn't it? Well I get up around 6-6:30 to get ready for work. I take a quick bucket bath with hot water warmed on the stove, dress, grab a quick breakfast of a banana or some bread and jam, and start my walk to work around 7. The walk to work takes me about an hour. Work finishes at around 5, Leaving me about an hour to get home before it gets dark. I usually take a mini-bus home from work. Now imagine this. A regular sized mini-van, normally seats about 8-9 people. Now imagine this mini-van, crammed with 12-14 people, plus driver and conductor, careening along busy city streets and you have a mini-bus. They are a pretty economical form of public transport. Probably not the most enviormentally friendly or safe, but they get the job done in this city. The mini-bus takes me from Kabulonga, where my office is, into the city center, where I transfer and take another bus out to Libala. In total the trip takes about 45 mins, and is a little easier than doing it on foot. Once at home, I relax a bit, before eating dinner, which usually conisists of Nshima and some vegetables and maybe some chicken. As soon as it gets dark, the doors get closed and I'm not supposed to go anywhere. Kind of an unwritten rule of survival in Lusaka. Don't go anywhere by yourself after dark. If you have to, take taxi's and don't carry anything valuable. So I sit inside, retreating into my room around 8 to write in my journal, read, and type emails. Sometimes I'll watch television, but usually the programs are pretty boring, and sleeping is so appealing, especially with the Larium induced dreams.... good times!!


Settling in….

I wrote this post on Monday, but throught some marvel of modern technology it didn't make it up.... so here it is...

Well going from ChaChaCha's backpackers hostel, our transition point from Canada to Zambia, and heading Libala (an area of Lusaka) was a huge leap. Chachacha backpackers is a hostel which is both cheap (around $10 a night) and caters to Muzungu's (White people/Foreigners). So things there were pretty nice...I could have spent a long time there. We were in the city, so seeing what the city had to offer wasn't hard, but we were still in a protected little bubble behind the hostel's security gates and walls. But that sort of experience isn't what this is all about. On Saturday afternoon, the group of eight JF's from Canada, people I had grown quite close to, started to head out to their respective locales. And so from chachacha's I booked a taxi and took my trip across down to Libala. I am staying here with an elderly widow, affectionately called "Mommy" by all the past jf's and ltov's who have come through Lusaka. She is very nice and lives up to her moniker. Her eldest son, lives nearby with his two small children, who are always visiting Mommy's house.

Today was my first day of work, and it was really quite tedious. I spent the day running around town, getting the requisites for my work permit, as well as accompanying the Director of ASNAPP Zambia as he tried to source materials for a project. I felt like a typical development worker as I was driving around town in a white SUV with USAID decals (ASNAPP is a USAID funded NGO, I know, it's american, but they actually do some good). After work I came home, played some ball with the kids, and as I write this I am sitting in my room, with some giant spiders as roommates getting ready to hit the sack. I think I hear fraiser on the television... or it could be a South African Soap Opera....hmmm...

Ricky Patel



I arrived in Lusaka yesterday afternoon. I am currently exploring the Market areas and buying some food for dinner. The city, from what I've seen is pretty much the same as any city I've seen in India, with some minor differences. I'm going to be moving to my home for the summer tommarow, as well as visiting my office. That's all for now...


In the EWB house

Well it's Already Wednesday. I don't know where the past two days have gone. They have been a blur of case studies, role playing, readings, walking between venues, a scavenger hunt, some delicious Ethiopian food, breakfast in Kensington Market and more. But above all I've been learning a lot and making some pretty big steps in pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

Yesterday I "accidentally" volunteered for an activity following a reading we did. Well little did I know that I was to play the part of Bana Maria, the first wife of Farmer Simon. Well at first I didn't know what to do, or how to play this part, but somehow I managed to channel an African woman, and she exploded out of me like no body's business. It was funny, and surprising. I don't think anyone expected that from me, a guy who's usually quiet and reserved. Well since then I've been type cast and anytime we do a role play (We did one today too) I am the African Woman. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this. But I guess I am learning something first hand about breaking/challenging stereotypes. Especially since not many people would expect a guy with a goatee to play an African Woman so well!


Almost ready

Well, Exams are done...and I'm just about packed and ready to go. I start training on Monday, I'm getting really excited and also very nervous. I'm getting butterflies in my stomach. I'm worried about not being able to a adapt, to be able to integrate and not be able to complete my assignment. I know that I shouldn't doubt myself. I will be fine.

Packing has been a tast in itself. I've got so much stuff, so little room and I can't think of what I should leave behind, because I already only the essentials. Oh well...it's not like I have to carry my pack all the way to Zambia, however carrying it on the bus to training, to the airport and in Zambia will be a whole other story.



[Well I just had a false alarm.... it was just a typo in a spreadsheet.... I'm still going to Lusaka, and still working with the nuts as far as I know.....what a crazy day... I was really quite excited about Livingstone, with Victoria Falls right there. Hopefully I'll still get a chance to make the trip down and see the falls while in the country, I think it would be a shame to go all the way and not see the falls. Anyways... doesn't change much...got so much to do to prepare...not so much time to do it.... I start training in about 2 weeks]

So, I just got word that my placement has changed..... I don't know what I'm doing now...looks like Im going to be out of Livingstone (as in Dr. Livingstone I presume hehe). More as I find it out I guess...


What I know so far...

I'm still in London, preparing for finals, and also preparing for my time overseas. I found out last friday what I should be doing. I was given the warning that development work is very dynamic, and a description of the work I'll be doing now, can drastically change by the time I arrive on site, and even after I arrive.

I will be working with "Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products" (ASNAPP) and specifically working to improve a nut processing press used to extract oil from the Mungongo Nut. The Mungongo nuts is very rich in Vitamin E and can be used as an additive in various products as well as a cooking oil. The main goal is to increase the value of the products communities produce, by improved processing, and marketing resulting in more income from their natural Products.

I will be based out of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, and required to take multi-week "field trips" into the SouthWestern region of Zambia, where the nut is abundant.

So far that is all I know..and like I said it could change at any time.... Well time to get this off my mind and concentrate on exams!


This is a test

This is a test. In about 45 days, I will be heading to Zambia to work for Engineers without Borders on some yet to be named Development Project. This blog will chronicle my experiences.