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Experience #9 - Kafue and Kasanka, Zambia

Our positive thinking works! Living more intensely in each place the things we most look for show up. That way it happened in Zambia.

The Republic of Zambia became independent in 1964. Until this year it was a British protectorate called Northern Rhodesia. A particular curiosity is that the vice president, Guy Scott, is white in a country where less than 1% of the population has this skin colour. The curiosity – part two – is that today he is the interim president for limited time, as the ex president Michael Sata passed way in the last October 28th, and because he doesn’t have Zambian parents the vice can command the country until the next emergency elections in the next ninety days… Weird? Imagine an urgent raffle for a new president… One of the main methods for survival in the African continent is the agriculture and livestock activities, what I believe to be part of the solution for hunger. I have always wanted to learn about it so I can have a garden at home one day to know the origin of what I eat and feed the family! And who knows even more families, it would be a perfect harmony! I’m talking about its organic front of course, once the current conventional farming and modern livestock harm directly our health, disregarding how ironic this may seem…

Just to illustrate the gravity of these atrocities: – The major industries’ chicken (the one we most probably eat) gets to his slaughtering size with seven weeks, when naturally it should be ten. This is because of the hormones injected only in his chest, as it is the most consumed part. So many antibiotics are given that his organism grows disorderly, so organs and bones are disproportional. These mutations unable him to equilibrate himself and walk what consequently makes him getting fat faster. Is kept cloistered in the dark to walk as less as possible and lives all the time over his own faeces squeezed among many friends… Summarizing, besides being cruelty treated, all these harmful chemicals stay in the meat that gets to our plate, of course. – The transgenic (or genetically modified organisms) are mutations of seeds to create the more resistant and minimize the farmer’s financial losses. They are ten times more expensive than the regular seeds as they promise higher gains and they practically have the monopoly of varieties of the global industries. A peculiarity is that they are chemically developed to germinate just once, so that is necessary to buy it again… The usage of fertilizers and pesticides that are made of petrol, also carry several chemical products that stay in the food we eat. – The govern complicity is frightening to the point that one of the most distributed pesticides in the USA, the atrazine, is forbidden in the majority of European countries because there are studies that proof its noxiousness to humans for contaminating water. The most ironical part of it is that producing company is European and is not allowed to sell it in its own country. Hilarious!

Calm down, don’t through your computer, as we still didn’t talk about the programmed obsolescence for electronic equipments, so they intentionally stop working for you to buy a new one… Seriously…

Back to the joyful part!!!

To study the organic agronomy subject, instead of starting in a traditional course, why not in the countryside of Zambia with extremely conscious and generous farmers? So we did thanks to WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) which has the incredible mission of putting in contact organic farmers around the world willing to receive people and volunteers interested in learning and working with them. An amazing way of exchange independent of money, once the hands on of the volunteer worker gets in barter accommodation, food and teachings. I didn’t know until planning this trip, but the joy of discovering it was way worth it in the first phenomenal experiences we had in this country.

Our first farmer friend is Sebastian Scott in the Old Orchard Farm in Kafue, a city fifty kilometres away from the capital Lusaka. He cultivates mainly bananas, legumes and vegetables. As one of the organic principles, he also has pigs and chickens to manure the soil and consequently consume the meat. It was an immersion in agriculture and biology. I kept remembering those classes at school when learning how life works seemed a bit boring. Children… And stupid (in my case).

There are several visions and opinions regarding this practice, specially the organic. However, I won’t discuss the content in this moment as I still need to plant a lot to create my point of view and be able to share my ideas. But I can already mention my delight to see closely that it is really possible to have extraordinary crop productivity just by understanding appropriately the laws of nature and treating her with the deserved respect.

I identified myself a lot with Seb in a few ways. Firstly because his initial motivation to be a farmer was to contribute somehow against hunger, once his mission is to generate food. Secondly is that he doesn’t see his way of living with that business perspective for profit and nothing more – what is the disease of capitalism… – He has the admirable principle of sharing consciously the farm earnings with the workers who dedicate themselves to it. Seb is white and his two partners are black, what is not a racial obstacle at all, but it would be easily acceptable in the social environment they live, being him the business owner to establish a minimum salary for a few workers and get more pleasure to himself with more money from higher profits…

Following the identifications I felt, he lives in simplicity, what I aspire for my life. The house is very nice, but has no fridge, no microwave and no air conditioning. The best part is that before every meal he walked to the garden to harvest what we would eat in a few minutes, impossible to be fresher than that. What thrilled us the most was the generosity he showed since the beginning to receive us, open his home, feed us abundantly and teach spontaneously. All these without putting any rule or obligation. We just went around with him to collect chicken manure (I carried tons…) and helped Victor and Ivan, the other two farmers, with the tomatoes. All very smoothly.

The second class of agriculture was in the Kasanka National Park, which is in the central region of Zambia. After a ten hours bus adventure during the night, we were welcomed by Pieter Snyman, a South-African who has been living in Zambia for the past twenty years. His farm, the Mulembo, has operated at full force once growing from corn to cassava, also cattle and fish ponds. The reality is that as the farm grew, it became a major challenge to manage so many workers, most times with a lack of capability required for the work and a few times not with good intentions. After years trying, his frustration tired him and Pieter now only grows a small cattle.

As the result of many researches, he taught us the concept of “bio-multi”, a natural substance of microorganisms which dissolved in water is used to irrigate the soil and hydrate the animals. Forms 100% organic like this, used correctly, can increase the crop productivity avoiding weeds and optimizing the working hours in the fields. Another fundamental learning is that bio diesel from cassava is easy to produce and can be a renewable fuel for machinery usage. To close a self sustainable cycle is also an organic agriculture principle.

Well, way more than the technical content, it was clear that it’s totally feasible to realize a conscious agriculture. Even more motivating is that there is a giant opportunity-necessity to disseminate this knowledge for the rural community of small farmers, once in countries like Brazil and Zambia this cultivation method represents only 1%. It’s not an anti-capitalism speech, but the format blindly “improved” seeking for the endless profit created schemes for the small ones to be hostages of the big industries and manners directly destructive to nature and maleficent for human health. What means being social and environmentally irresponsible. As those concepts felt into the famous and unquestioned common sense (rural), a major consciousness effort is required to reverse the mistakes learned.

This lack of instruction in the rural areas has even more severe complications in nourishment, mainly children, once their malnutrition is a common deficiency. Most of the times we asked a child’s age, we were impacted to know that she should be bigger and had her development affected. The hopeful part is that we felt in a community we stayed – we will share all details in the next post – that many times they have access to many vegetables and legumes and even produce them, but due to the habit they eat more of the same. It’s the case of the most typical local food, the nshima, which is a mixture of water, corn, cassava or sorghum. Everyone eat it every lunch and dinner as the main dish, what implicates in a deficit of many other nutrients for not balancing better the ingredients.

The most pleasant of each experience is to see that a few problems have solutions closer than they seem to be. We just need to walk in the right direction willing to invest a bit of us in guiding who needs and allow ourselves to be guided when we need! Evolution is constant!



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