Rosemary Chate’s seven children gather around the table inside their home in Malela, a village in Zambia’s remote Northern Province. They dig their spoons into bowls of food that has been prepared by their mother – for the second time that day.
Rosemary and her family won’t go hungry today.
Not long ago, Rosemary Chate’s family would assemble to eat just once a day – their resources, for many months each year, were so thin that they needed to ration their food supplies to just a single family meal.
Occasionally there would be more, but their routine was just a single meal of porridge, supplemented by leaves or a few meagre vegetables. We ate in the evening, so that we wouldn’t be hungry when we went to bed, Rosemary recalled.
At the same time, Rosemary’s resources could only stretch to sending two of her children to school. “In the past, we couldn’t pay for school because we didn’t have enough money.”
When Self Help Africa came to Malela, Rosemary Chate was determined that she would take the opportunity to change her circumstances.
She participated in ‘training of trainers’ programme, and was appointed as a ‘lead farmer’ in Malela village. She learned how to plant and tend to her crops more efficiently, and took part also in a pilot programme to grow new food crops, including groundnuts and soya bean, on her two-acre farm.
Today, Rosemary is passing on this knowledge to her neighbours. They, too, have become better farmers and have increased their production, Rosemary says proudly.
Smallholder farming in Malela is far from certain however, and despite the progress that she has made, Rosemary Chate lost nearly all of her beans to flooding caused by torrential rainfall last year. However, her other crops survived in the waterlogged fields, and she says that she still fared better than she would have done in the past.
With the money she has earned from her farm work, she bought iron sheets to replace the traditional thatched roof on her home.
Not only has this allowed her to keep the home dry during the rainy season, Rosemary no longer has to think about re-thatching her roof every second year.
But the biggest improvement in her family life concerns her children:
“Today, all my children attend school. Because their food and nutrition has improved, they aren’t going to school hungry either, and as a result they are getting better results,” she says.
Today, Rosemary is positive for her family’s future:
“I love living in Malela. I love going to my field in the morning and know that I’ll be able to feed and care for my children properly, today and tomorrow,” she concludes.