A Unique Project
One of Makeni Ecumenical Centre’s most unusual projects is the initiative of offering to unemployed, destitute, landless or slum township dwellers the opportunity to train in agriculture, to go back to the rural areas, to have land for agricultural production, and their own homes and to become productive citizens instead of a burden on the community. Anyone who knows Africa realises the urgent need to reverse the present trend of urbanisation.
It is a proven project, first started in 1972, which has so far succeeded in settling 282 families (or ~1900 persons) in five villages created by MEC in the rural areas – Kafue, Mwembeshi Chisamba, Mwomboshi and Kalwelwe Settlement Villages. About half of the families so far settled are headed by women.
Prior to settlement, prospective settlers’ families (about twenty a year) undergo full-time training at the Centre. Courses last for at least one year and cover Crop Management, Vegetable Cultivation, Poultry Management, Animal Husbandry and Farm Management. Throughout that year, practical ability is tested by extensive fieldwork. Literate candidates write exams while non-literate candidates are given oral tests. The main criteria for selection for settlement are the ability to produce good crops and livestock, personal discipline and honesty.
How are the Settlements Funded ?
In the past, funding was provided incidentally by churches, development agencies, church congregations and, from time to time, the governments or embassies of the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, England, Sweden, the USA and Canada.
In the early years of the settlement scheme, loans were made available readily to settlers, usually amounting to a maximum of US$1760 per family. This provided materials to build their houses ($550), for a poultry unit ($400), for tools ($100), for agricultural production ($530) and to feed their families for the first nine months. Loans were expected to be paid back within one to ten years, depending on the nature of the loan. Repaid loans were to become a revolving fund to benefit subsequent settlers.
When more and more settlers defaulted on loans, and when overseas aid dried up, loans were drastically cut. Nowadays settlers only get a few roof sheets for their house, some food aid, and seeds for crops. The sharply reduced support has inevitably resulted in severe hardships for new settlers. They pay the price for earlier settlers’ unwillingness or inability to repay loans.
Whenever aid is available, MEC donates the water supply as a one-off contribution, which usually involves the drilling of boreholes, provision of pumps, power supply to pumps, and water storage and distribution facilities. This is expensive at up to $2,500 per family, but, in our drought-plagued part of Africa, it is the key to successful farming. The cost of running and maintaining the water supply is borne by the community. A settlement or water supply budget is available on request.
How are these Villages set up?
MEC has, over the years, purchased or been given land for settlement. The total acreage available for settlement in the five villages is about 6000 acres (2400 hectares). Each family that completes training successfully becomes the owner of ten acres of land in one of the settlement villages. Kafue, Mwembeshi and Kalwelwe are already full. As long as settlers or their descendants farm their land, their right to it is absolute. Savings accumulated from crop sales during training and subsistence loans help settlers survive during the first months in the new village. Families are intended to become small hold commercial farmers, not just subsistence farmers.
When overseas aid is available for this, MEC also provides a clinic, a family planning outlet, a school and a village technology workshop for the Village, provided the initiative for these comes from the settlers themselves.
Villages are democratically governed by the annually elected Village Management Committees who are, among other duties, charged with collaborating with District Development Committees and local and national development programmes. Settlers are encouraged to set up co-ops but decide for themselves whether they will or not.
MEC staff visit the newer villages once a month for agricultural advice, liaison, debt collection and consultation. Since foreign aid has decreased greatly, MEC is no longer able to help settlers with marketing of their crops. This has also affected settlers adversely.
All settlers grow crops during the four months of rain in Zambia, mid November to mid March, if the rains come! Only settlement villagers who were given an adequate water supply can grow food in the rest of the year. Others suffer severely during the long dry season. In spite of the many hardships, very few families leave settlement villages.
New Partners in Development are needed!
As we face the huge task of settling about another 400 families (about 3000 people) over the next few years, we urgently need new partners to work with us. Your support is sought. Materials, personnel, a vehicle, and cash aid would all be greatly appreciated.
Gifts of agricultural study materials, agricultural tools, building tools, seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, veterinary medications, solar pumps and panels, water pumps, windmills for water pumps, etc. are all valuable in our work. Volunteers are welcome to assist in the building and expansion of the new villages, to bring in skills, especially skills related to agricultural and water supply and storage issues.
There is urgent need for a new or good second-hand small truck for this project. The settlement staff also need two motor-bikes to do their work.
Donations in Zambia are tax-deductible. Grants outside Zambia may be made either directly to MEC, or through CAF in England, or through your local Church, to enable you to claim tax deductible privileges. Details are available on request.
Why aid to Zambia?
Zambia is now among the poorest nations of the world. There is a formal employment for only 7% of the population of its workforce – about 300,000 jobs for a population of about twelve million people. 85% of the population is said to live below the poverty line. Its huge international debt of about US$ 7 billion results in most aid to Zambia going towards servicing this debt. Zambia’s currency has tumbled from US$1 = K2 to US$1 = K4900. The annual inflation rate runs at about 25% – all these factors have caused deep poverty.
One third of the population is said to be HIV positive – yet the people of Zambia are willing to sacrifice and work for the rebuilding of their shattered economy.
If you are willing to consider being a partner in this project, we hope you will get in touch with us.