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.