“This club you have embraced and are married to will never help you out of poverty!”
“People would mock us,” said John Mulwanda, 49, thehusband of Belinda, 51, of the Kamisenga Dairy Group. Belinda said, “These discouraging remarks continuedfor a long time. This was a very trying moment for us but we managed to endure the mockery, though at a certain point my husband stopped attending club meetings because he could not stand the torment.”
The community could not understand why members of Kamisenga believed in Heifer International when several organizations had been there before and did not fulfill their promises.
“Deep down in my heart, I was firm in faith because I had heard and seen what Heifer International had done in the neighboring Kampelembe community, and that gave me strength to be even more committed to club activities,” Belinda said.
She said the Kampelembe group members were given dairy cattle about six years ago and this made her not waiver in faith. “My friend Omelly and I were not discouraged in any way because we had invested a lot of time and resources preparing to receive the animals. We knew it was a matter of time,” Belinda said, “We were encouraged to attend group meetings and training weekly because our desire was to know how to look after animals.”
“Our families could not afford more than a meal a day and the only meal of the day would be taken in the evening when all the family members were present,” Belinda continued. “We would go to nearby farms to exchange labor for food, and my husband would also try to sell charcoal, but that was not sustainable because the work demanded a lot of energy and time. When I look back it was quite shameful and those are memories I would wish to forget.”
“I will never forget the day we received our dairy cattle from South Africa. When we saw a big truck approaching our communal holding pen, everyone ran to the track ululating (a trilling howl), yelling and some clinging to it. People shouted, ‘Shaisa ing`ombe twalelolela,’ or ‘the cattle we have been waiting for have finally come’ in Bemba.”
“Through the knowledge and skills we acquired from the training we were able to look after Elanco, the cow (named after project funder Elanco, a division of Eli Lilly and Company), adequately and she gave birth to a beautiful female calf. This brought joy to our family and we made sure everybody in the community knew exactly what had happened. The income from milk sales helped us in improving our lives and we are a very very happy family.”
“We no longer go out looking for food because it is our turn to also help other families with milk. My husband has already started buying iron sheets to improve the roof of our house. It is no longer a dream but a reality that soap, cooking oil, lotion… which were a myth, are now abundantly available. When schools open in January, I will not avoid visiting the head teacher’s office because I have what it takes to be a grandmother. I will walk straight in and pay for school fees directly just like Omelly did last year. The head teacher could not believe that Omelly, once a defaulting parent, could pay cash for her children’s school fees! It had even become a custom negotiating for her children to remain in school, promising to settle the fees immediately after she sold off charcoal or vegetables. Our monthly income from milk is 800,000 kwachas ($160) and with part of this money, I buy Elanco a bag of dairy meal.”
“We used to feel really ashamed of ourselves mixing with other people because we rarely had bathing soap. No matter how hard we tried to look our best, we felt like outcasts. We could not even afford clothes because that was far beyond our reach and the death of a calf simply amplified our poverty because we thought we were not fit to own an animal. But with all this, I now know that we were in the school of patience.”
With much joy, Belinda’s husband, John, said, “We were too desperate to find a solution to our poverty, especially since I only reached my seventh grade and my wife grade four, but now that Heifer has come to our aid, we are now well able to conquer and win any battle!”
“Most of all we are very grateful to Elanco, Heifer International, Village Water Zambia and government staff like Mr. Widney Munsaka for their support,” Belinda concluded.
The CRLESP has been operating in the four districts—Masaiti, Mpongwe,Kalululshi and Luanshya— of the Copperbelt since October 2010, with the goal of enhancing livelihoods through integrated agricultural production; enterprise development; and promoting human health, water and sanitation.
Heifer International, the lead implementing organization, has partnered with the National Food and Nutrition Commission and Village Water Zambia as part of the strategy to achieve holistic sustainable community development.
The project has worked closely with government partners from the Ministry of Community Development and Mother and Child Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. These ministries have also been providing training and monitoring project activities. Review and planning meetings are held monthly at the community level to enhance the partnership and project ownership by participants.
To date the project has reached 2,937 families through various interventions: 140 through provision of livestock, 120 through vegetable production, 120 through human nutrition, 82 through agroforestry, and 2,495 through water and sanitation activities.
“November 16th, 2011, will never be erased from my memory because a dark cloud hung over my life, and I was shaken to the core. This was the same day my fellow group members were celebrating the arrival of 40 dairy heifers we had been waiting on for more than four years,” said Lilian Kantolo, a member of the Kamisenga dairy cooperative.
“On this fateful day, my husband took his last breath in the early hours of the morning. I was shocked because he was not sick the previous day. He had just gone out to meet his friends at a nearby drinking place. This was a normal socializing spot in the community, and most men, after a hard day’s work, went there to have fun,” Kantalo continued.
“The tragedy hit me so hard that everything in my life came to a standstill. This was just a dream, I thought, and when I wake up I will have to tell the story to my husband about my silly dream! Alas, I was not dreaming because everything was real and tangible. How can this happen to a 35-year-old young woman with five children? I cried for many days and could not imagine what life without my husband would be like. He made me proud, and I was the envy of most women in the village because he was such a handsome, loving, caring and hard-working husband. We had big dreams, especially that we were about to receive a dairy animal from Heifer International. I was just imagining how wonderful it was going to be; better housing, no more painstaking activities at the garden, paying children’s school fees on time. All those dreams lost in just a moment,” Kantolo said, holding back tears.
The Kamisenga group received the animals, and the Kantolo family was given a pregnant heifer. The animal was kept at a neighbor’s place until all the traditional rites were completed.
All seemed to have been working well, especially with the overwhelming support the family received from Kamisenga. They made her burden lighter by taking responsibility for all the funeral arrangements. Something like this had never happened before in this community. Once the family was left alone, though, reality set in when her husband’s elder brother took over as administrator of estates.
“This man I had only met twice since I got married aggrieved me more. Earlier on before the burial, he was very quiet and calm. I thought he was a gentleman, until he was given a platform to speak, then all hell broke loose,” Kantolo explained. It was also learned that her husband’s relatives withdrew all the money from the family account, amounting to 3,220,000 Zambian kwachas or $644.
Her husband’s brother came to her and said with a certain level of authority in the tonga language, “Bina Jimmy tulayinka antomwe ku musanza,” which translates to, “Mother to Jimmy, we will have to go to Southern Province together.” Kantolo recounted, “At this point, I felt the pain of losing my husband all over again. To add insult to injury, he demanded the dairy animal Heifer had given to the family, which I thought would be a source of hope.”
The Club leadership heard about this and intervened. The group assured Kantolo that the animal would be given to her family as soon as they returned from the Southern Province. After completing the traditional rites, the family returned to Kamisenga and found their animal waiting for them. After three months, their heifer calved a healthy female calf to the joy of the family.
Through the encouragement she draws from the project, Kantolo has started adjusting to her new life. She is able to pay school fees for her children using income from the milk she sells, and the family enjoys drinking milk every day. 13-year-old Jimmy, her first-born son, runs the errands for the family like his late dad. He delivers 1.5 gallons of milk daily to the Milk Collection Center (MCC).
The Copperbelt Rural Livelihood Enhancement Support Project (CRLESP) has been operating in the four districts (Masaiti, Mpongwe, Kalululshi, and Luanshya) of the Copperbelt since October 2010. Its target is 6,210 direct project families who will enhance their livelihood through integrated agricultural production, enterprise development, promoting human health, water and sanitation.Heifer International being the lead implementing organization has partnered with the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC) and Village Water Zambia (VWZ) as a strategy to achieving a holistic sustainable community development.
The project has worked closely with government partners from Ministries of Community Development, Mother & Child Health (MCDMCH) and Agriculture & Livestock (MAL). These have also been providing training and monitoring project activities. To enhance the partnership and project ownership by participants, review and planning meetings are held monthly at community level.
To date the project has reached 2937 families through various interventions; provision of livestock 140, vegetable production 120, human nutrition 120, agro forestry 82, water and sanitation activities 2495.
Photos to come
Our Hope is Here
Mercy Mwananyanda is a young mother with extraordinary abilities. As quiet as she is, no one would guess that when she gets excited, she begins somersaulting. On September 19, 2011, in the Kamisenga Dairy Cattle project area, the atmosphere was filled with ululations and dancing. Women and children were carried away with excitement because the long awaited dairy cattle had arrived. The entire community was hit by a wave of extraordinary excitement. One woman in particular–Mrs.Mercy Mwananyanda–amazed everyone with her gymnastics. She swung into action with ease and without embarrassment. She tossed herself in the air and did a number of somersaults. Everyone stopped what they were doing just to catch a glimpse at this rare feat.
“Mercy, why did you do that?” I asked. She replied with a broad smile, “You see, I am very, very excited my problems are over! I know that many people may not understand me. We have suffered for too long, and nobody has shown us respect in this village. But now my family status has changed for the better because of these animals Heifer and Elanco have bought us,” answered Mercy. For a while I was speechless, and I thought of asking Mercy’s husband, Humphrey, about the display some would consider embarrassing. Humphrey did not mince his words: “You see, Ba Sikalangwe, that is the only way we can say thank you for these gifts of livestock. We will not be the same because our status in the village has changed now and forever. We have been waiting for these animals for many years, and therefore nothing is really embarrassing about what my wife has done. I am very happy for her,” Humphrey said with a smile of satisfaction on his face.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.