“With my vegetable garden, I am now able to support my family.”

Published: 22 June 2015 12:00 CET

By Bruce Mulenga, Zambia Red Cross

In Zambia, the period of a crop harvest can be a joyous moment, characterized by traditional ceremonies through which people give thanks to their ancestral spirits for the healthy abundance. This year, however, the harvest is foretelling of signs of hunger and increased poverty for the majority of families in the Zambezi river basin. Failed rains are once again diminishing the yield.

Gister Kampamba, 45, is married with four children. His family lives in Lusu village about 30 kilometres west of Sesheke district. He is one of the lucky farmers whose household will be spared from this year’s looming hunger. Through the Zambezi River Basin Initiative (ZRBI), supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and implemented by the Zambia Red Cross Society, Kampamba has been taught how to notice signs of looming drought or floods, and how to prepare for such disasters and thereby reduce their impact on his family.

He learned various methods of improving soil fertility such as conservation farming to maximize the yield, and was taught ways to manage vegetable crops in order to prevent diseases and pests. He was then given vegetable seeds to help him start his garden. With his acquired knowledge, Kampamba was able to notice the early warning signs at the beginning of this year’s rainy season and decided to embark on vegetable gardening instead of upper land crop cultivation. “For me,  when I noticed signs of drought at the onset of this rainy season, I immediately decided to embark on vegetable gardening near the river because I could easily water my vegetables using the nearby river. It was easy for me to start gardening because of the assistance of the seed packs and knowledge I obtained from this programme,” said Kampamba.

Today, he is harvesting his vegetable crop for his family to eat, and will sell the extra. “As you can see, my children are managing to eat three meals per day. Because I am able to sell extra vegetables I am able to earn income to buy other foods to balance our diet. My children are healthy because they no longer get sick easily. In fact, my two year old weighs 13.5 kilograms. According to the nurses at my clinic, they say my child is growing healthy, and so are my other older children,” boasted the proud father.

Before he began growing vegetables, Kampamba’s meal was often nshima, a staple in Zambia made with maize flour, along with fish from the Zambezi river. His  profit from charcoal burning was too meagre and he could not save any money to supplement his family’s diet. His children were often turned away from  school because he could not pay their school fees. Today, Kampamba is earning 700 Kwacha (95 US dollars) per harvest. He harvests twice a month on average and is now able to support his children at school. He has also opened a bank account to save some money for a “rainy day”.

Kampamba believes his life has changed because of the Zambezi River Basin Initiative and says it has the potential to change the lives of many people in the region who are constantly affected by flood and drought due to unstable weather patterns. His wish now is that the programme can expand to other areas so more families can also reap the rewards of being better prepared for disaster.