I am currently in Zambia visiting The Butterfly Tree projects. The temperature is 38 degrees and rising as the rainy season approaches. Not a drop of rain has fallen for almost six months and the earth is parched, the rivers are low and the streams have run dry. Earlier in the week I drove to the Nyawa Chiefdom. The village I was aiming for was Muchimbale, 100 kilometers to Zimba then a further 36 kilometers into the bush.
Muchimbale has a small community school where children previously had to walk 5 kilometers every day to fetch water, which took 3 hours out of their time table. Thanks to a generous donor the school now has its own bore hole and it certainly was a joyful sight to see the children pumping and drinking safe clean water. In addition this donor has funded two double latrines for the pupils. In the same Chiefdom we have installed a bore hole at Kauwe Basic School A third bore hole has been donated but unfortunately, as yet, we have not been able to source water at Kanimbwa School. Such are the challenges when working in these remote communities.
Once these schools have a bore hole or well in place they can create a garden to grow maize and vegatables to provide a sustainable feeding program. Maize is grown and dried to store during the dry season. Currently children at schools such as Muchimbale leave home early to start lessons at 7am, but the children do not get any food until they return home around 5pm as the school budget is so poor. As a result attendence and performance suffers. November is the time to start planting - we are seeking funds to reach out to schools like Muchimbale.
Life for many girls and women in Zambia is tough, most especially in rural villages where the poverty levels are extreme. More challenging is the high prevalence of HIV, with one in six adults being infected with the virus. Tradtionally women have children during their teens but early pregnancies can result in complications. The Butterfly Tree holds workshops for school girls and women to teach them about the dangers of HIV and teenage pregnancies.
'Educate a woman and she will educate the entire family'.
One of the main problems is the lack of funds for girls to be educated. If women can be empowered they are more likely to obtain employment. If the family is living below the poverty line it is difficult to feed them, especially if the woman aislooking after orphans. It is quite common to see a widow or elderly grandmother looking after six orphans. By donating seeds girls and women can grow sufficient food for the family and use the profits to pay for schooling and vocational courses.
The area where we work is close to the Victoria Falls and has a wealth of tourist attractions besides many hotels and lodges. These women, especially if they have manaed to completed a ffod and beverage course, can take their projects a step further and supply the hotel industry with local vegetables, which are constantly in demand. All that is needed is a donation for seeds and fertilizer - the women and girls will do the rest!
The rainy season in Zambia ends in March. Unfortunately the rains, which started in October, have been intermittent – either too heavy or insufficient. This means that the crops will yield only around 30 – 40% of what is normally expected. The maize had dried too quickly, much of it scorched by the saering heat, when temperatures reached 35 degrees, above average for the time of year. This will result in a great deal of hunger, if not famine, amongst the rural communities that depend on maize as their staple food. There are many hungry children living on just one meal a day, some of them walking for three hours to get to school.
As always the ones most affected there are the orphans. Some children are returned to the villages from townships when their parents pass away. It is really tough for these children and also for their grandparents who become their sole guardians. Recently one elderly man lost his daughter and son-in-law as a result of AIDS related illnesses. His grandchildren had been brought to him from Sesheke, some two hundred kilometres from Mukuni. A neighbour had kindly offered him his mud hut as the old man did not have suitable accommodation. He had no income to provide food for these vulnerable children. We will soon donate a house for this family along with support for the children, but it will greatly help the family if they have seeds to grow their own food.
Thanks to donations from an existing supporter and some generous tourists, we were able to distribute bags of ‘mealie meal’ (ground maize) to vulnerable families in both Mukuni and Kamwi Villages.
We have had tremendous support from our donors, but we need to buy more seeds for vegetable and beans now that the maize growing season is over. Please continue to help us to provide them to more vulnerable children, especially girls and women who tend the small gardens to provide food for their families, in these remote villages of Zambia.
Zambia has been plagued with an infestation of army worms, which started in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and is now down in the Southern Province and Mukuni has been hard hit. December to March is prime growing time and just when the maize was sprouting the army worms have destroyed all the crops in the area. President Sada has announced it as a national disaster and if it is not controlled in time Zambia could face a severe famine next year. With maize and fuel already in short supply new ways must be found to provide food for these needy people and to prevent further major issues.
Most rural communites rely on maize, which is Zambia´s staple diet. Crops are planted in December and harvested from March onwards. The corn is left to dry on the stalks, after picking it is ground and stored. This has to suffice vulnerable people during the dry months of April through to November. With two thirds of the population living on less than a dollar a day maize is the staple diet. When ground the maize is mixed with water to make a porridge for breakfast. For supper it is boiled and mashed to eat with vegetables and ground nuts.
With the destruction of the crops in many parts of Zambia the government are assisting the large farmers, but very little help is given the outreach communities. There is still time to replace the loss of crops by giving each family a bag of seeds. It cost just $20 and will provide enough food to feed a family for many months. Although there is always hunger in these rural communities, without this aid, many areas could be affected by famine by the end of 2013.
The Butterfly Tree is targeting the most needy families, giving the seeds to womand and girls who will plant tand control the project. Since the end of December 2012 over $2000 has been allocated for seeds. Please help us to help them ovecome this catastrophe.
N'gandu is situated in the Kazungula District of the Southern Provice of Zambia and 28 kilomters to the neares town of Livingstone. The Butterfly Tree has helped to advance the education in their rural school which now goes up to grade 9, after which the pupils have to walk 10 kilometers to reach Mukuni High School, built by The Butterfly Tree.
A group of grades 10-12 girls leave home at 5am to reach Mukuni by 7am to start their lessons. Unfortunately due to lack of income they are unable to have breakfast. During term time the only meal they receive is from the charity's feeding program. This provides a nutritional meal of n'shima (ground maize), meat, fish or beans and vegetables. At 4pm these girls set off for the long walk back to N'gandu Village; during September to December temperatures can soar to 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
When they get back to their mud hut homes far too often there is no food for supper. The Butterfly Tree has funded a small project for these girls to generate some income and to have an additional food supply. The funds will be used to purchase seeds and to have a small shop selling essential produce such as maize, cooking oils and sugar. The aim is for them to be able to make a profit to buy food for their families and to grow their own vegetables and maize.
Though this is not a famine area their is tremndous hunger, particularly amongst school children. Thank you for your generous donations, and we look forward to your continous suppport!
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