Showthem Sikombe sees hope for the future in Nsunda village.
Supported by Self Help Africa, changes in farming practices, production by farming households of new food and cash crops, and improvements in both livestock quantity and quality point to a positive future for his people.
But it is in the near complete surfaced road – passing beside Nsunda, and linking the district’s main town, Mbala, with neighbouring Tanzania, -that Showthem sees the greatest potential for his own future.
“When the road is completed we’ll have a better access to markets. We won’t have to sell our produce to passers-by, who set the price low,” he explains.
On his four-acres land, 52-year-old Showthem grows cassava and millet, alongside beans and sweet potato, crops that were introduced by Self Help Africa. He has also started rearing improved breed goats, ‘an insurance policy’, he says, that can provide him with income in the event that he needs money quickly.Despite the progress that Showthem sees around him, he admits that life is still a struggle, and that it remains difficult to support his young family. “At present I can afford to send just one of my seven children to school,” he says.
Torrential unseasonal rain waterlogged his fields last year, and the general unpredictability of the weather has meant that poor yields and crop failure remain a constant risk.
“We are experiencing a drastic change in rainfall,” he explains. “Two years ago the rainy season started badly with showers only once a month, but at the end of the season the fields were flooded, and my crops rotted in the ground.”
Like many in Nsunda, Showthem battles regularly too with poor health – as he speaks he shakes with the fever of malaria that is a common visitor in his life. “I get sick maybe once every year. I have headaches, but even with fever I must go to my fields to work.”
Showthem Sikombe is hopeful that the future will bring positive change. As a result of his farm work his family diet has improved. He is also planning to start buying fish from a nearby town and to sell it at the local market to supplement his income. “With the new road this kind of business will become possible,” he says.