Defending against hunger and COVID-19 in ZambiaJul 29, 2020
In 2019, Zambia experienced its worst drought in 30 years, leaving some 2.3 million farmers with insufficient harvests – and many more facing hunger.
In response, People in Need (PIN) and the Zambia Red Cross Society (ZRCS), with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, provided agricultural input packages to more than 1,000 vulnerable, smallholder farmers between March and July of this year. The intent was to restore crop yields, which had been dramatically diminished by the drought, and to ensure that every family had enough to eat and could fulfil their basic needs. The packages were distributed throughout the Western Province, including communities in Kaande, Lealui Lower, Malabo, Mawawa, Namasho, Simulima and Siwa.
Seated under the shade of a mango tree, 41-year-old farmer and father of four, Charles Mutula Mwangala, shared his story: “The last farming season left us with no food and no means of survival, but [thanks to this program] now I know we are going to have enough food in my home.” Mwangala, who supports several family members in addition to his children, lives in Kaande village, approximately 10 kilometres from Mongu town in the Western Province.
Seed distribution and training in effective farming methods
The agricultural packages that were distributed included vegetable seeds, fertiliser, and fungal pesticides. “In March, PIN and the ZRCS gave me onion, tomato, okra, and cabbage seeds, as well as fertiliser and pesticides for the vegetables,” says Mwangala. “With this help, my household will have enough food and I will sell the excess vegetables in Mongu central market. In the past, whenever I grew enough food, I would earn enough to buy cattle and I hope I will be able to buy a cow this year.” Other farmers have also used the seed distribution to plant for their own consumption, with plans to sell excess produce at the market.
In addition to receiving agricultural inputs, the farmers were trained in effective farming methods such as planting, crop management, and seed bank development. “The trainings were enlightening, especially thanks to the experiences shared by the other farmers,” says Mwangala.
COVID-19 prevention and awareness
During this intervention, the PIN-ZRCS project team also tried to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on small farmers in Zambia while keeping staff safe. Staff members wore personal protective equipment and regularly disinfected items during distributions, commenced each distribution with a COVID-19 information session, and prepared a training addressing the pandemic and disease prevention. Mwangala says, “I had heard about COVID-19, but PIN and ZRCS gave me more information, especially on the signs and symptoms of the disease and how we can protect ourselves.”
Mwangala has even taken these lessons back to his family. “I have started practicing the prevention measures in my home,” he says. “I make sure there is water and soap in the compound for washing hands, although I cannot afford to buy masks for all of my family members.”