By 2020 we aim to have built a network of thousands of long term partnerships linking the UK and Zambia.
Each partnership will consist of an individual in the UK linked to a small group of Zambian farming households. The partnerships will be based on trust and friendship rather than handouts and will each increase local food production by enough to overcome local hunger.
We believe that a lot of small improvements involving a lot of people spread over a wide area can result in more benefit than a few big improvements involving less people in fewer areas.
In the UK the ZaRP network is made up of groups of 5 or 6 people. Each of these people in a group is introduced to a different group of 5 or 6 poor farming households living in a single community in Zambia. They form a partnership with this group on a one UK person to one Zambian group basis. They are the only person from their UK group who communicates directly with their Zambian group but they discuss challenges and share learning with the other members of their UK group.
We work in groups because this has been important to the success of similar projects in other countries. People can feel very exposed when they are doing things differently to those around them; success can cause resentment and in Zambia lead to accusations of witchcraft as well as unfair demands from extended families. Also setbacks could make a single farmer look foolish. By forming groups the Zambian partners will feel protected and learning can spread faster. In the UK the group structure also allows learning to spread faster as well as giving individuals protection from unreasonable requests from their partners in Zambia.
The Assistance Offered
The Zambian families that we will be linked with usually live in small rural communities of some 20 families. They have the right to farm a few hectares of state owned land and have access to water for most of the year, although this may involve carrying the water long distances. Most cultivate their land by hand using hoes although a few will have access to oxen for ploughing. Most concentrate on growing maize and the impact of mono cropping this introduced species is falling soil fertility.
These families would benefit from relearning traditional and tested techniques such as growing and rotating traditional crops, using natural fertilisers, planting trees and composting. Some charities are training Zambians to apply these techniques but they often struggle to fund all of the necessary ongoing support. We believe that by providing time, organisational skills and access to information for free our network can provide this support at almost no financial cost.
Good communications are essential between the UK partners and the communities they are linked with. The UK partners must be able to talk directly with all of the people they are supporting not just with community leaders, co-ordinators or spokespeople acting as gatekeepers. Most of the communication will be conducted in English by phone and initiated by the UK partner. This is because there are relatively inexpensive ways of calling Zambian mobile phones from the UK but the same is not the case from Zambia to the UK. There may need to be some e-mail use even if this requires the Zambians to learn new skills and to travel into town to access the internet.
In order to give the UK and Zambian partners something concrete to talk about it is recommended that each UK partner sets up a small revolving loan fund, of no more than one thousand Kwacha or approximately £130. The loan will be used by one of their farming partners to buy items for use on their smallholding; seeds, tools, fencing, chickens etc. The UK and Zambian partners will discuss how best to use the loan and this will help them to learn about and build trust in each other.
The UK partner may decide to set up 2 funds and so lend to 2 farming households in the group but we would advise against setting up more than 2 funds, at least before the initial loans are repaid in full.
Before a UK partner releases any money to a farming household, the Zambian household will need to show that the money will be used wisely and the UK partner’s group in the UK must agree. The Zambian partner, with help and advice from the UK partner, must write a plan explaining what will be done, how a loan will help, how the loan will be paid back, how progress will be monitored and how the partners will communicate. Once the UK partner group has agreed the final plan then the money will be released.
When a loan has been repaid then it will become available to lend to another farming household in the Zambian group. Once every household in the group has received and repaid a loan then the UK partner will start working with a second group in the same community. The partner will also stay in touch with the first group. If enough trust and friendship has been built up, then the first group may be able to persuade the UK partner to continue helping them as well as the second group.
Requirements of UK Partners
It is the time and experience of the UK partners that is important not their money. Most UK partners will not have any prior knowledge of farming or of Africa but they will be able to:
- Find answers to questions – by using the internet, books or asking friends and/or connections
- Provide support by listening and trying to understand the issues
- Help solve problems by
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applying business and/or general experience
- Lend small amounts of money when they are certain that it will be used to good affect
- Be firm and refuse to bow to pressure to try and solve problems simply by giving money
- Help bring about change by donating their time and energy
Requirements of Zambian Partners
The Zambian farming households must:
- have one family member who speaks good English
- have one family member who has a mobile phone
- have access to water and enough fertile land to grow food
- have sufficient physical strength to work their fields
- currently face an annual period of hunger
- have the ambition to grow enough food to reduce the hunger period to zero
- be willing to try new methods of farming