Poor soils and high temperatures that can soar to the high 40s in the summer months make farming a huge challenge for the people of Zambia’s southern province.
And the Tonga people face greater challenges than most. Forced from their tribal lands a half century ago when the newly-built Kariba Dam flooded huge swathes of the Zambezi River basin to create the world’s largest man-made lake, the displaced Tonga were resettled on poorer lands around the fringes of the lake shore, and they remain some of the poorest and most marginalized people in the country.
It was against this background that Self Help Africa began working with the Tonga, helping to establish Harvest Help Zambia, a Siavonga-based agency that implements our agriculture-based rural development programmes in the region to this day.
A community-based seed production project has just trained 60 local seed growers in production and multiplication of good quality seed, and the project aims in time to ensure 5,000 farming households in the district will have better access to seed for crops such as maize, groundnut, beans, and sorghum.
The director of Harvest Help Zambia for the past decade, Alexander Kasenzi, says that its role is to facilitate local communities to come together and identify the issues and solutions to the problems they are facing.
With a team of 12 local staff and local partners, the primary focus of Harvest Help’s work is on supporting agriculture and food production, although they have responded to community wishes for improved social services, including schools, sanitation and health services as well.
The organization uses a ‘lead farmer’ approach to disseminating learning and farming knowledge, and has supported farmer groups across the region with farm based enterprise development, with tree planting and other environmental work, with fish farming, and with other activities. In recent years the organization has also undertaken new activities that have focused on the needs of those living with HIV/AIDS and AIDS orphans, and has received funding support from the US government to finance this project.