A Naturalist in Central Africa
Bryan migrated from the United Kingdom to Zambia with his parents in 1948, and went on to work in both Zimbabwe and Zambia for three decades. Early on, Bryan found a passion for agriculture and horticulture, and he became an active member of the ‘Naturalist Society of Central Africa’.
Bryan migrated to Australia in 1980 where he met and married his wife Anja in 1996. German-born Anja explains that she “felt the desire to help others” at a young age. She became a qualified medical assistant after working for the German Red Cross and has since worked for various medical institutions, including general practices, laboratories and radiology clinics.
When Anja moved to Australia in 1987, volunteer work became a big part of her life. It is now something she and her husband have dedicated their lives to. Their home in Gidgegannup, Western Australia, is the Bakers’ base, from where they operate and organise the projects they plan to conduct in Zambia in the coming months.
Less than a Dollar a Day
Zambia has a population of about 12 million people, and since its independence in 1964, 73 tribes have lived peacefully together under the motto ‘One Zambia – One Nation’.
Many people, especially young men, move from the rural areas to the big cities to find work. Due to lack of work and low pay conditions, most of them earn less than US $1 per day. The unemployment rate stands at 60 percent.
The women are left to raise the children (with traditional families having between six and 12 children), tend the fields and make a living by themselves. Little money is made by the men, and little or nothing is sent home for the family. Adulthood comes at an early age, especially for girls, who are considered adults by age 15. At this tender age, they are ready to marry and live with all the responsibilities of marriage and work. Mostly they will leave school after four or five years.
Crowded Schools & Hospitals
Although the government has a policy of free primary education and health care, parents still have to pay for educational material and school uniforms. Most schools, especially in the rural areas, are overcrowded. Some schools have between seven and 15 teachers for up to 1,000 pupils. The only way to handle this is to conduct classes in three-hour shifts.
Health facilities are often inadequate, particularly in Mungwi. To service a population of 100,000, there are seven physicians and 130 nurses. Basic nursing materials, medical and surgical items, equipment and medications are often not available, or are out of date. There are reports of patients getting just one meal a day. The lack of hospitals and clinics in rural Zambia requires patients to walk for many kilometres, sometimes even days, before they can be treated.
Project OSCAR (Organic Solutions & Conservation for Agricultural Results) is a unique grassroots project. It will see the creation of a school with a a curriculum which encompasses agriculture, aquaculture and environmental protection of the native land.
The Bakers plan to reintroduce indigenous food plants and alternatives for fuel. Reforestation will be a vital part of the project. After the school has opened and is operating, there is the possibility of expansion to process and preserve food, which could then be sold, providing a regular income for the school. This income could be used to cover for school materials and running costs.
The intention of project OSCAR is to introduce a broader variety of food, including plants, fruit and vegetables, all with a higher nutritional value.
The Government Helps
The Zambian government has already allocated Project OSCAR 20ha of land, and promised to improve the roads leading into the community. The ultimate aim of this specific project is to set up a functional village, including a school, teachers’ houses, facility buildings and a school garden. Another five hectares have been made available for growing vegetables, fruit and oil seed crops. This land provides the stepping stone for the Mungwi community to become self-reliant.
“Many NGOs are working in Africa and are doing a great job, but there is still so much more to be done at the grassroots level. Working together in partnership and sharing resources is one of the most important issues,” says Bryan.
The SRFZ has two sea containers already full of agricultural, educational and medical materials donated by Western Australians, ready be sent to the Northern Province of Zambia. What is needed now are the funds to transport the two containers and the Bakers, who will travel to Zambia ready for the planting season and the rains, which begin in September.
“The vision for project OSCAR is to create a model which can be duplicated so that the locals can replicate the learning process from village to village, passing on their knowledge and skills” says Nigel. “Self-reliance is necessary to empower the community so they don’t rely on aid and donations”.
Much Needed Help
Nigel and Byron took up the challenge of raising funds to ship the containers to Zambia. In order for this to happen, A$30,000 was required. While the target has not been completely achieved, the volunteers left at the end of August with one container, and the remaining container will be sent as soon as the funds are raised. A fundraising project has been set up on the SRFZ website (www.selfrelianceforZambia.org) where people interested in helping with the shipping costs can purchase ‘kilometres’ and get a password-protected photo video website in return. The sum of A$2.50 buys one kilometre of the journey.
The Goal is Self Reliance
The Bakers plan to live in the Mungwi district to devote their skills to educating and bettering the lives of the community. For the Mungwi district to become self-sufficient, the poverty cycle must be broken, and this can only happen through the implementation of better health and education initiatives. Presently, poor crops and food security are resulting in malnutrition and leaving a large part of the population susceptible to illnesses.
The lack of infrastructure is isolating communities from much-needed facilities including hospitals and clinics. The natural water supply that is readily available is in poor condition and needs to be treated. Self Reliance for Zambia expects to develop the community in such a way that self-reliance and self-sufficiency are attained.
The Costs are High
The challenges in making this a reality are mainly associated with the high costs involved in such a large-scale project, the difficulty of transporting materials, and the general lack of tools.
A successful implementation will help the whole community – especially those who are more disadvantaged by the lack of facilities, such as orphans, widows and the disabled.
SRFZ is about empowering individuals and families to help themselves, their families and ultimately their community. All profits will be put straight back into the project for running costs and educational materials.